State Remembers Victims of Drunk Driving

7 years 6 days 11 hours ago Thursday, December 09 2010 Dec 9, 2010 Thursday, December 09, 2010 1:36:44 PM CST December 09, 2010 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The state of Missouri honored those affected by drunk and impaired driving accidents at a memorial service held at the Capitol Thursday morning. Participants gathered to remember loved ones who were killed or injured by drivers under the influence. Government officials hope that the event will inspire citizens to be responsible and find safer ways home.

The event began with Christmas carols sung by the St. Stanislaus 5th and 6th grade choir, whose members wore shirts that said "Arrive Alive." Governor Jay Nixon was scheduled to speak but was not present at the event. Among the other speakers was Colonel Ronald K. Replogle, Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

"They aren't accidents," said Replogle. "Drinking and driving is a choice. People choose to do those things and its something that does not have to happen."

Replogle is passionate about getting drunk drivers off the highways.

"We continually remind our troopers that there is no better arrest that they could make to make our roadways safer," he said. "Last year we made 9,468 such arrests."

Phaedra Marriott-Olson also spoke at Thursday's event. Olson was injured in 1996 by a drunk driver, and is still in a wheelchair as a result. Olson got involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving almost immediately after her accident. Now, she serves as the victims services manager for MADD Missouri.

"Being here today and knowing that those families are not going to be forgotten, that they're not just another name on a piece of paper," said Olson. "Instead, they are a life that is now going to be remembered not only by our own families and our own communities, but by our state of Missouri."

The memorial service showed just how many Missouri residents are affected by the choices of drunk drivers. More than fifty people showed up to show their support. Almost the entire room stood when Leanna Depue, Director of Highway Safety for the Missouri Department of Transportation asked attendees to stand if they knew someone who was injured or killed by a drunk driver.

The holiday season is especially tough for those who have lost loved ones. Angela Maue lost her seven-year-old son, Luke, in May 2001. Maue was with her son on a field trip to the St. Louis Zoo when he was hit and killed in the early afternoon.

"I'm here in honor of him," Maue said. "I'm here to be his voice and to remember him the way he should be remembered."

In honor of the victims killed and injured by impaired drivers, a Christmas tree was lit by Olson. Attendees were encouraged to hang ornaments to help remember their loved ones.

"I miss [him,]" Maue said. "Especially now this time of year, its very hard."

281 Missouri citizens were killed by drunk or impaired drivers in 2009, and 3719 were injured. Officials hope that with holiday celebrations looming nearer, Missouri residents will make responsible decisions when it comes to drinking and driving.

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