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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Sobering reality: Speakers' stories kickoff 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' enforcement

  • Jordan Haynes, looking into the eyes of many DUI offenders, tearfully talked about July 8, 2010, the day a driver under the influence of alcohol and intoxicating substances took her husband's life when he crashed into their vehicle along SH 9A near Shawnee.
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  • Jordan Haynes, looking into the eyes of many DUI offenders, tearfully talked about July 8, 2010, the day a driver under the influence of alcohol and intoxicating substances took her husband's life when he crashed into their vehicle along SH 9A near Shawnee.
    On the day of that accident, Jordan, pregnant with their second child, along with the couple's son, Aiden, were in the family's pickup as Jeff Haynes, outside the vehicle with a chain, was there to help get his brother's pickup out of a ditch.
    But in a matter of seconds, the day ended in tragedy.
    In tears, she told the class, "I knew he was gone."
    Three years later, she said she and the family aren't the same.
    "The whole family misses him," she said, encouraging those there not to ever drink and drive. "It's not worth the heartache."
    Haynes spoke to a class of about 30 people, most of them who were court-ordered to attend a Victim Impact Panel as part of their court cases on alcohol-related offenses.
    Several members and law enforcement officers who are involved in the Metro Area Traffic Safety Council also attended to kickoff the upcoming enforcement campaign, "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over," which runs Aug. 16 to Sept. 2. During the campaign, law enforcement officers will be looking for impaired drivers in hopes of preventing such tragedies.
    Alisa Hale, who conducts the Pottawatomie and Lincoln County VIP classes, told the group, "What you hear tonight might save your life or someone's life."
    She said they would hear about death, pain, tragedy, and loss.
    "It's about one choice — your choice to drink and drive and endanger others…or your choice to find a safe way home," she said.
    Emotional videos showing photos of many Oklahomans who have died because of a drunk driver played in the dark and quiet room at Gordon Cooper Technology Center. As the video ended, silence remained as the first speaker began.
    Responder shares story
    Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Fletcher spoke to the class first, telling them drunk driving accidents are the one thing that can be prevented. And while he explained that as a deputy he's often first to the scene of such accidents, he's also been injured in a drunk driving accident.
    Fletcher told the group he was sitting in his patrol car along SH 3 about 3 a.m. one morning to meet another deputy to exchange a prisoner. His unit was 15 feet off the roadway in a grassy area when a drunk driver, traveling about 80 mph, struck his patrol car.
    "I'm never going to be the same," Fletcher said, adding he suffered a neck injury trough the ordeal. And while it's been tough on him, Fletcher said the accident likely saved someone else that night.
    Page 2 of 3 - "I'm thankful he hit me," Fletcher said, adding the driver could have hit another vehicle somewhere head on, which could have been deadly.
    Fletcher said he's assisted as a deputy at the scene of such accidents, as he graphically told the audience about one case involving CPR that still bothers him today.
    And while it's tough on those who are first responders, Fletcher said it's about the family who has to hear the horrible news someone has been killed in a drunk driving accident.
    "One second, their world is great…the next, they hear a knock at the door," Fletcher said, using his fist to knock loudly on a nearby table.
    "There's no easy way for me to tell you your loved one is dead," the deputy added. "I hope none of you guys ever have to go through that."
    And while Fletcher said many of them may have DUI infractions in their past, he told the crowd, now it's about the future.
    "Why can't it be possible that nobody drinks and drives?" he asked.
    Woman suffers double loss
    Christine Farmer talked about a double loss, years apart that has affected her everyday life.
    In 1998, her 15-year-old sister's best friend, Ronnie Campbell, was killed when a reported drunk driver crossed the centerline and hit the friend's vehicle head-on. While the drunk driving accident devastated Farmer's sister, Laura Williams, it also deeply impacted her life.
    As she told about the unspeakable loss of that ordeal and how it affected so many, she talked about how she looked at things differently went she became a parent.
    Years later, when Farmer was pregnant, she would go through another devastating loss.
    It was June 9, 2004, when a phone call changed her world.
    Her sister, Laura, 21, was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a friend who was "driving too fast for conditions and for being impaired," Farmer said.
    They had a wreck and her sister was killed.
    "I buried my sister on Saturday and had a daughter on Wednesday," Farmer said, telling the group her child was named after her aunt.
    "Every day I celebrate my daughter I also mourn without my sister," she said.
    With tears wiped from her face many times, Farmer sent around photographs of the accidents, along with obituaries, giving the group a closer look at the dangers of drunk or impaired driving.
    "It comes down to a choice — we all make choices every day," she said, adding, "the next time you are put in a position, I hope you think."
    Page 3 of 3 - Reality sets in
    As a final part of the program, the class watched interviews of those in prison currently serving sentences relating to killing someone in a drunk driving accident. Many spoke about living with the guilt — and life behind bars.
    At the end, Hale said during the time frame of the class, at least three people died somewhere in the U.S. because of a drunk driver.
    Hale said she hopes the real-life senseless nightmares of what they all had heard would touch their hearts and minds as they all have a second chance.
    She said the goal of VIP is to reform offenders through awareness, to prevent young people from making dangerous choices and to promote healing for panelists.
    As the class was dismissed, several stopped to shake hands with the speakers, and one woman, moved to tears, even shared a hug and stopped to talk.
    The woman, who was in the class because of a DUI, said, "I'm so sorry for their terrible loss."
    The woman said she doesn't drink alcohol anymore, but she doesn't know how that class couldn't affect someone's heart.
    "It's an easy decision not to drink and then drive," the woman said. "If you've got money to drink, you've got money to call a cab."
    Enforcement set Aug. 16-Sept. 2
    States troopers and law enforcement officers from cities all across the state are gearing up for the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign that runs Aug. 16 through Sept. 2.
    Among those in attendance for the VIP was OHP Lt. Garrett Vowell, who is the statewide impaired driving enforcement coordinator.
    Law enforcement officers will be aggressively looking for impaired drivers during the campaign.
    "On average there is one alcohol impaired driving-related fatality every 53 minutes across the country," Vowell said. "This tragic loss of life can be prevented if we get impaired drivers off our roadways."
    It is illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, but despite these laws, in 2011 nearly 10,000 people died in U.S. crashes in which a driver or motorcycle rider was impaired.
    "If you plan to drink, always designate a non-drinking driver," Vowell said. "Drunk driving is a crime, not an accident."
    In Oklahoma in 2012, four people died in vehicle crashes over the Labor Day weekend. Two of the fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes; an additional 17 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes.
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