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Officer Chuck Daniel discusses a wreck that he responded to that was a result of impaired driving.
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Photos by Lexi Coon.
Tisha Pate, member of MADD, holds up a photo of her daughter who was killed a month before her 21st birthday by a drunk driver.
Alabama ranks fifth nationally for the number of teens killed driving each year, and if the drivers or passengers involved aren’t killed, they can suffer serious injuries that last a lifetime. To help educate their young drivers, Oak Mountain High School held a teen driving summit, UR KEYS 2 DRV, for its students on April 4, during which they heard from Tisha Pate and Alabama State Trooper Officer Chuck Daniel.
Pate is a mother involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD. In 2012, she and her daughter were involved in a car accident that resulted in her daughter’s death. It was one month before her daughter's 21st birthday, and the driver that caused the accident was three times over the legal limit of blood alcohol content. He was an alcoholic, ran a stop sign and t-boned their car.
She told her daughter's story, showed photos and memories, and then spoke of the accident, how she stayed with her daughter in the road after the accident until officers made her leave to get her own injuries treated. Because of the accident and the trauma it caused, Pate now suffers from PTSD and anxiety.
“My life, it will never be the same,” she said.
She also mentioned that her daughter had recently given birth to a little girl, who will now grow up without knowing her mother.
“Not only did I lose my daughter, but her daughter lost her mother," she said. "Now she calls me 'Mom.' I wanted to be 'Nana.'"
The driver who caused the accident was later convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and murder, which resulted in a 26-year prison sentence.
Pate pleaded with students to be aware of their physical and mental state before driving and to also be sure if they are a passenger in a car, that their driver is also sober.
“If I could save one life, one of your lives … I don’t want another parent to go through what I went through,” she said. “Just don’t get behind the wheel drunk.”
Daniel followed the story of Pate’s daughter by showing a video of car wrecks that involved distracted or impaired driving. Many of the photos showed accidents he had responded to, and many of them resulted in fatalities.
“When I gotta go into a home and tell a mother [her child is gone], and hear her scream their name … that’s tough on me,” Daniel said.
He said one of the common denominators for the accidents that he showed the students was young drivers, and he urged the students to take care and pay attention when they are driving, not play on their cell phones or drive under the influence.
“I’m hoping today, this day, to have a lasting impression on you … We talked a lot about driving while impaired,” he said. “Never. That’s the word you need to remember.”