Rules of the Road: THP cracks down on DUIs
Kim Ledford describes her 24-year-old son Dustin as a typical guy.
"All he thought about baseball... Baseball and blonde-headed girls," she laughed.
However, one night in July 2010, the Bradley County man's life took a tragic turn.
"(A driver) got on APD 40 (a highway) there in Cleveland; it's a four-lane road with a median in between," Ledford recalled. "She was traveling the wrong way for about five miles. Hit Dustin head on."
Dustin died when the woman with a .24 blood alcohol level crashed into his car. Recently, the same woman was sentenced to ten years in prison for killing Dustin along with other crimes.
"It affects the police officers that witness the crashes. It affects the ambulance drivers. It affects everyone who got on scene," said Julie Strike with the East Tennessee chapter of M.A.D.D.
Stories, like Kim Ledford's have become all to familiar to members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
"(DUIs are) one thing we're really focusing on at this time," said Sgt. Don Boshears with THP. "When we have other duties, as far as working crashes, but when we're on the roads, that's what we're putting an emphasis on."
Sgt. Boshears said officials have increased their checkpoints. Dozens were added for the Labor Day holiday. This year in East Tennessee, those checkpoints caught 19 people with DUI's. However, Boshears said that isn't the only change they have put in place.
"We got our troopers out on later shifts on the weekends. Coming in later and staying out until later hours in the morning," Sgt. Boshears said.
These changes can be seen in the number of arrests officials have made. According to THP reports, between January 1 to July 31, 2011 there were 2,132 DUI-related arrests.
In that same time frame in 2010, there were 1,631 arrests.
"It is a good thing but it is also sad to hear that the word is...people are not catching on to how dangerous drunk driving is," M.A.D.D. spokesperson Julie Strike added.
While Kim Ledford cannot get her son back, she can share his story. She's currently working on legislation on tougher DUI-related sentences, and hoped her and her son's experience can save a life.
"I think people are starting to take this as a serious crime," Ledford said. "You know, it's the most preventable crime there is because it is a choice is made."