By Kim Stankiewicz
SANDAG just recently released the arrest statistics for San Diego County for 2010. In 2010, nearly 17,000 adults were arrested for misdemeanor DUI in 2010 in San Diego County. That works out to be almost 50 people per day! And remember, this is just a figure for those arrested, there are many more driving illegally intoxicated that are never caught. As the step-daughter of a police officer, I am reminded all too often of the consequences of drinking and driving. When I first set out to write this blog I was going to quote all sorts of statistics and include images of DUI crashes but then I decided that if I really wanted to make an impact the article should be about the people affected by DUIs not the people making the selfish decision to drink and drive. Lives are affected and some lives are cut tragically short.
One that hits home for me was that of a young man that my sister and I went to school with from elementary to high school. Kevin Leonard, 27, and his wife Samantha, 23, were heading back to their home in Idaho on September 26, 2010, when a vehicle crossed the center line and struck their 2001 Volkswagen GTI head on.
Kevin and Samantha were on their way home to Mountain Home Air Force Base, were Kevin was stationed, after visiting family in San Diego. The impact of the collision forced the Volkswagen off the road where it overturned causing both Kevin and Samantha, who were both wearing their seatbelts, to have to be extricated from their vehicle. Kevin was treated at the hospital and released. Samantha’s injuries, on the other hand, were much more severe.
The day after the accident she underwent 8 hours of reconstructive surgery on the right side of her head and face. The next day she suffered mini strokes and brain seizures and had to be put on a ventilator. The brain swelling increased and she began running a fever. On October 2, 2010, Samantha Leonard succumbed to the injuries she sustained in the accident. She left behind a loving husband, parents, brothers and sisters who are still grieving her loss to this day. Samantha had her whole life in front of her but someone’s selfish decision took that away from her.
The man responsible for this crime had a blood alcohol level of .19. He was charged and convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison but is eligible for parole after 5 years. Nothing will bring Samantha back but his punishment doesn’t seem fair in the grand scheme of things.
Kevin and his family participated in MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) San Diego’s “Walk Like MADD” 5k walk in October to remember Samantha but they weren’t the only family there. Far too many families were also walking to remember a lost loved one. According to the MADD website last year, 10,839 people (one every 50 minutes) died in drunk-driving crashes in the United States.
As you celebrate with your friends and family this holiday season please remember to not drink and drive. And do me one favor, if you don’t remember the statistics regarding DUIs at least remember Samantha the next time you have a few drinks and think about getting behind the wheel.