AUSTIN – The Stephens family is planning their annual holiday feast, but this year, one seat will remain empty. Their daughter Jade was killed when a drunk driver ran a stop sign and T-boned their car, just days before her 10th birthday.
“We miss her every day, but we feel the loss of her presence particularly around the holidays,” Eric Stephens, Jade’s father said. “We miss her joy, wit and infectious laugh. No other family should experience a loss like ours due to drinking and driving. All it takes is planning ahead for a sober ride.”
The Stephens family is sharing Jade’s story through the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Plan While You Can” campaign to communicate the devastating consequences of drinking and driving. The goal is to save lives and decrease alcohol-related crashes, with special emphasis during the holidays when alcohol consumption is more prevalent.
As a combined result of the “Plan While You Can” campaign and the efforts of many state and local community partners, including law enforcement, Texas experienced a 9 percent decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities during last year’s holiday season (Dec. 1, 2015 - Jan. 1, 2016) compared to the previous holiday season. Still, during last year’s holiday season, there were 2,374 alcohol-related crashes in Texas, resulting in 102 fatalities and 205 serious injuries.
“We are saving lives through our education efforts and by sharing compelling stories from families who have lost loved ones,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said. “However, one life lost is one too many. Finding a sober ride is easy and it can save you from being arrested or from injuring or killing yourself or others. By making an effort to plan ahead for a sober ride, together, we can continue to save lives.”
The “Plan While You Can” campaign includes a statewide tour featuring an interactive dodgeball game, where participants dodge “snowballs” as virtual drinks are added to the screen. As more drinks are added, the players’ on-screen avatars respond more slowly to players’ movements. Participants experience how drinking can slow their reaction times.
As always, TxDOT strongly encourages everyone to plan for a sober ride before going out. Visit SoberRides.org to find alternatives to drinking and driving, such as:
· Calling a taxi or using a transportation app on your smartphone.
· Using mass transit.
· Asking a sober friend or family member for a ride home.
· Spending the night.