By Jon Kalahar - email
JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - In a statewide effort to limit the number of fatal car crashes, specifically alcohol related fatalities, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety is starting a campaign to warn drivers against driving under the influence.
The important number to remember is 345. That's how many people died in Mississippi last year in alcohol related accidents. But not everyone hurt by a drunk driver dies.
"He was gonna have dreams. They were taken by a man who didn't think before he drank," said Rene Bower, mother of drunk driving victim.
Renee Bower's son Richard was riding in a car when he was struck by a drunk driver. Bower remembers the doctors describing her son's traumatic brain damage.
"He was in a coma for a year, what they call a semi-vegetative state for another year. He woke up after two and a half years on Mother's Day and said, 'Mom' for the first time," said Bower.
Richard is just now re-learning to walk, and his speech is still impaired. He's an example of why the Department of Public Safety is ramping up efforts to stop drunk drivers.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol will continue its "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" campaign on tv, radio and billboards. And with the help of increased funding from the state legislature, 164 more troopers will be on the roads compared to last year.
"If you don't believe in presence and numbers, you can look at last year, what we've been able to accomplish with that money and those people and the drastic decline in DUIs and fatalities," said Colonel Michael Berthay.
But troopers will do more than sit on the side of the road during the holiday season.
"Clearly visibility and saturation is an important deterrent, but they'll also be detecting impaired drivers and making arrests," said Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Simpson.