TxDOT holds drunk driving safety campaign


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and Photojournalist DENNIS THOMAS


Posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:30 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 25 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Imagine getting a call that a drunk driver had hit your spouse or your child. It happens in Texas every 20 minutes.

It's the reason the state is kicking off a new safety campaign urging drivers to be smart and stay sober.            

A Texas couple lost their son two years ago Tuesday, but they're pushing through the loss, hoping to spare others the same pain they live with every day.

Dennis Pennywell and his wife Kay adopted their son Aaron when he was 18 days old.

“Aaron was a prankster, a jokester. He loved people. He loved making friends,” Dennis Pennywell said. “He was also a kind and a sweet kid.”

On June 25, 2011 a drunk driver smashed into Aaron's car, hitting it broadside. The crash killed the 20-year-old instantly.

“The pain of losing a loved one is terrible, but the pain of losing a loved one to something like this is indescribable,” Pennywell said. “We've been forced to live with his absence every day. We go to his room, and we remember he'll never be there again.”

The Pennywells are among many families of DWI victims lending their voices to a new safety campaign by the Texas Department of Transportation.

It's called Faces of Drunk Driving and was unveiled at the Long Center with a waving backdrop of Texas flags. Each of the flags planted on the lawn represents a life lost to a drunk driver. Last year in Texas 1,170 people were killed in drunk driving crashes.

State officials say more than 9,400 people in Texas last year suffered serious injuries in alcohol related accidents.

“There were more than 25,000 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas in calender year 2012 alone,” said John Barton with TxDOT. “That equates to a five percent increase from 2011.”

Throughout July, TxDOT will host Faces of Drunk Driving events across the state. Law enforcement across Texas will conduct a no-refusal initiative through the July 4th holiday weekend. Suspected drunk drivers will be required by law to give a breath or blood sample.

Last year during the holiday, officers worked 133 alcohol related crashes in Texas.

The Pennywells hope by telling their story, they can save lives and keep another family from suffering a loss that's 100 percent preventable.

“The grief and the pain that we've felt, we don't want anyone else to have to go through that,” Pennywelll said.

DWI penalties can include jail time, losing your license and as much as $17,000 in fines and legal fees, not to mention jail time.

Click here for more information about the Faces of Drunk Driving campaign.