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September 24, 2013 7:26 am

Campaign is correct: There is no excuse for drunken driving

Written by Tom Lawrence

Maybe now everyone will get the message.

Perhaps this time, people will think when they drink, and will not be tempted to try to sneak home from the bar after one last round. This might be the time people have a pop, or a cup of coffee or a glass of water instead of one more alcoholic drink before getting behind the wheel.

Because it’s about damn time the idea that drinking and driving is in any way acceptable was discarded. That’s why we applaud the state of Wyoming for its new statewide advertising campaign against drunken driving.

TV and radio ads as well as billboards across Wyoming are recalling a particularly painful memory in the state — the alcohol-related crash that killed eight University of Wyoming student-athletes in 2001.

“This media campaign is based on what I believe is the largest single incident of loss of life from an alcohol-related crash in Wyoming history,” said Mike Reed, policy analyst with Gov. Matt Mead’s office.

The crash took place several years ago, but it’s still a vivid memory for a lot of people who were in the state then.

The eight members of the cross country team — Morgan J. McLeland, 21, Gillette, Kevin L. Salverson, 19, Cheyenne, Nicholas J. Schabron, 20, Laramie, Shane E. Shatto, 19, Douglas, Kyle N. Johnson, 20, Riverton, Justin M. Lambert-Belanger, 20, Timmins, Ontario, Canada, Cody B. Brown, 21, Hudson, Colo., and  Joshua D. Jones, 22, Salem, Ore., — were headed north on U.S. 287 on Sept. 16, 2001.

At 1:30 a.m., their Jeep Wagoneer collided with a swerving Chevrolet one-ton pickup truck driven by fellow UW student Clinton G. Haskins, 21, of Maybell, Colo. Seven of the eight were thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. Schabron, the driver, who was sober, died later at a medical facility.

Haskins, whose blood-alcohol level was .16, had been a member of the university’s rodeo team. He he ended up in an intensive care unit but survived the crash. Haskins later pleaded guilty to eight counts of aggravated vehicular manslaughter and served a decade in prison.

The Governor’s Council on Impaired Driving kicked off the $600,000 campaign on Sept. 16, the 12th anniversary of the horrific crash. The families of the eight cross country athletes killed in the crash south of Laramie have endorsed the effort.

Debbie McLeland of Gillette lost a son in that horrific crash. She said she is willing to expose this deeply painful moment in her life if it will help change people’s minds about drinking and driving. She has worked with an unlikely partner — Haskins — to try to spread the message of sober driving.

“You have eight families that are willing to say: Go ahead open this wound for us again and we’ll put it out there,” McLeland said. “Nobody should ever, ever have to die because of drunk driving because it’s 100 percent preventable. Just don’t get in your car and drive drunk.”

2 comments

  • Comment Link September 25, 2013 7:08 am posted by vroom58

    I don't understand why, with todays technology, isn't there an alcohol blower in EVERY vehicle? Would this stop drunk driving?

  • Comment Link September 25, 2013 7:44 am posted by Salty Dawg

    There is no excuse for drunken driving..and there is also NO EXCUSE for texting while driving,or flapping ones pie hole on the cell phone while driving.Statistics have proven that idiots who insist on driving and texting cause more wrecks than drunk drivers,so why doesn't the law,and America's twisted society,crack down on this atrocity?

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