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Faces Of Drunk Driving Campaign Reminds Texans Of Safety During July 4th Holiday

Ryan Loyd

The July 4th holiday is one with pool parties, barbecues and time spent with family, but according to the Texas Department of Transportation, it is also one of the deadliest holidays on Texas roads.

"This story reaches across races, genders, male, female, children are even impacted by drunk drivers and we just want to remind people if you're going to celebrate, take the time to plan ahead," said Robbi Smith of TxDOT. "Think about yourselves, think about your family members."

For the third time, the transportation organization has launched the Faces of Drunk Driving campaign, which showcases photographs of victims of drunk driving. The purpose of the campaign is to let people see real faces to be a stark reminder of the consequences of drinking and driving.

One of those faces is Chilli Vasquez, a nine-year-old girl who is now wheelchair bound because of an accident involving a drunk driver. On her way home from getting her hair and nails done, a person who was intoxicated while driving slammed into Vasquez’s car.

Vasquez read from a statement at a press conference, telling the audience she has no feeling from the waist down.

"I can no longer play games that I used to with my brother, Isaiah. People always stare at me, especially little kids," she said. "I pray and believe that I'll walk again. I hope that my story serves as a reminder to others of the results of drunk driving. Please don't drink and drive, ever," she said.

Another face of drunk driving is Edward Jimenez. Although he survived his August 2006 accident, his 7-year-old son, Matthew, and a 14-year-old neighbor, did not. Jimenez held the boys’ pictures at the press conference.

"Even to this day, when we're planning to do anything or even sit down at dinner, you feel that emptiness and it shouldn't be that way," said Jimenez. "If you're going to drink, a lot of responsibility is required and it's never, ever good to drink and then decide to drive afterwards."

That drunk driver got 10 years in jail.

"Whether it's 10 years or life, we're the ones who've been sentenced forever. This doesn't need to happen anymore," he said.

Police Chief William McManus said even one drink is too many. He said drivers who have had only one drink will still face the same process as someone who drank more.

"You get pulled over by a police officer for whatever reason. You made an illegal turn, you didn't have your turn signal on, whatever. And that officer smells alcohol on your breath, you are going to go through the same drill as someone who has had 10 drinks," he said.

"There is zero tolerance for drinking and driving in San Antonio and Bexar County," said McManus.

He stressed the message isn't about keeping you from going to jail or keeping your record clear. It's about being considerate enough to respect yourself and others so that no one will be missing tonight at the dinner table.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.