Mother who lost son to drunk driver talks dangers of impaired driving

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After a rash of DUI crashes, we’re taking a look at the real-life impacts left behind.

There have been at least three crashes in the last week. The Tennessee Highway Patrol says the one thing they all have in common is that a person behind the wheel was driving under the influence.

As we head into a big sports weekend, one mother who lost her son to a drunk driver is speaking out, warning others to think twice about the consequences of drunk driving.

Sept. 17, 2017, was the day Mary Clifton’s life changed forever. Her son Tom was killed in a hit-and-run crash by a drunk driver.

“It’s gut-wrenching. It is like getting punched in your stomach and you can’t breathe. That’s how this feels all the time,” Clifton said.

“It’s been rough. The anxiety, the depression I went through, the depression where I didn’t want to be here anymore.”

Unfortunately, Mary isn’t alone.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports Tennessee had 290 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2019. The Tennessee Highway Patrol says the number of crashes involving alcohol is already up this year.

“We’re seeing a rise in alcohol-impaired crashes as well as traffic-impaired fatalities,” THP Lt. Eric Miller said.

Going into Super Bowl weekend, Knoxville Police will be on higher alert.

“Anytime those events are happening, there has to be a little bit more of a concerted effort to get out there, make sure we’re on the roads and we’re visible on the roads and monitoring for anybody who might be out driving, not just drunk, but reckless in any capacity,” KPD Public Information Officer Scott Erland said.

For Mary, the wounds are still fresh, even four years later. Now she is using her story as a warning and reminder to put keys down if you’ve had too much to drink.

“If you’re going to go out drinking at a bar, and go to the sports bar and what not, please have a designated driver. Losing my son … devastating. I have an empty seat every holiday. My granddaughter will never get to know her uncle as well as we all did, and I just beg of you, it’s not worth it,” Clifton said.

Emily Williams was convicted for Tom’s death in 2017 and is currently serving a four-year prison sentence. Mary tells us she has a court date coming up soon.

The Highway Patrol says they will have a sobriety checkpoint set up along State Route 168 on Sunday.

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