KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Law enforcement across the state of Tennessee and the country are ramping up their efforts against drunk driving over the holidays.
The ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ campaign started Dec. 15 and goes through Jan. 1. Officers always look out for drunk drivers, but during that time frame, they focus extra hard on taking drunk drivers off the roads.
Drunk driving can have more consequences than an expensive ticket or a night in jail. Some family have to live with the aftermath of a DUI crash for the rest of their lives.
The families of Jaelyn Collins and Ashton Bailey have learned that this year. This will be the first Christmas Tami Oliver won’t be spending with her 18-year-old daughter Jaelyn. She can’t even spend the weekend at home, because it would hurt too much.
“By this point, I’d already have the tree up, but we, she had special ornaments that were special to her. And um, I can’t look at those right now,” Oliver said.
Oliver said Jaelyn was her best friend. She was a bright light on even the darkest day. But that light was taken from this world too soon because of a drunk driver.
On June 27, a driver crossed over into the opposite lane on Maynardville Pike. The driver crashed head-on into the car Jaelyn was in. The driver admitted to police he had been drinking.
“The devastation that’s been caused by this wreck was totally preventable,” Oliver said.
That crash impacted several lives, including Jaelyn’s best friend, Ashton Bailey. Bailey was the driver of their car, and suffered severe injuries after the crash.
Her family is thankful she will at least be able to be home for Christmas, but that only came after spending several weeks in the ICU and a few months in rehabilitation.
“She basically had to learn how to walk again. Talk, walk, feed herself. She’s still learning to feed herself. You know, part of her, she has to learn to use her left hand,” Mark and Angela Bailey said.
The Bailey family said despite the difficulties, Ashton had been progressing well, but she’s still not as strong as she was once.
Ashton and Jaelyn had just graduated before the crash. They were getting ready to live their adult lives.
One mistake took that away from them. It took a daughter away from Oliver and a best friend away from Ashton.
“What we want to say to everybody is you know, to think twice. To, you know, one person’s bad decision has affected a lot of people,” Angela Bailey said.
“If you don’t do it for yourself, think of other people. Think of, you know, a beautiful 18-year-old girl who was here and had a life and just graduated high school, had just started her first job and did not live long enough to see her first paycheck,” Oliver said.
So their message this holiday weekend: don’t drive drunk or distracted.
“Just don’t do it. Just don’t do it,” Ashton and Mark Bailey said.
“Make sure everyone comes home for Christmas, because Jaelyn can’t be now. So, let’s make sure everybody gets home for Christmas,” Oliver said.
According to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, nearly 300 people won’t be home for Christmas this year due to a DUI-related crash. Last year, 291 people died in a DUI-related crash. In 2019, 297 died in a DUI-related crash.
Just in East Tennessee alone, between Dec. 13 through Jan. 1 of 2020, 279 people were arrested for driving under the influence.
Officials with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office wants everyone to enjoy the holidays with their family, but safely. Arrive alive. Please don’t drive impaired. Don’t drive distracted. Wear a seat belt. Every life matters.
There are several ways people can get home safely after drinking. Plan ahead and have a designated driver, request an Uber or Lyft, call a cab and as a last resort, AAA is offering a free tow during the holidays.