Laura Gonzalez celebrates her birthday every Labor Day weekend, commemorating the start of a new year and the end of summer alongside friends and family. Her husband Rico, however, will forever be absent from these celebrations as he was killed when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver, leaving behind his wife of less than a year and countless other family members and friends.
“We were just starting our lives together,” Laura said. “We had everything to look forward to — our careers, a home of our own, starting a family. All of those hopes were ruined in an instant. The life we dreamed of for our family would only remain a dream. A drunk driver took all of that away from us.”
Laura now shares her story through the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Plan While You Can” campaign to communicate the devastating consequences of drinking and driving. The goal is to save lives and decrease alcohol-related crashes, with special emphasis during holidays when alcohol consumption is more prevalent.
As a combined result of the “Plan While You Can” campaign and the efforts of many state and local community partners, including law enforcement, Texas experienced a 23-percent decrease in alcohol- related crashes over the 2017 Labor Day weekend* compared to the 2016 holiday weekend. Still, during last year’s Labor Day weekend, there were 264 alcohol-related crashes in Texas, resulting in 14 fatalities and 19 serious injuries.
“It’s completely irresponsible and absolutely inexcusable to drink and drive,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “Finding a sober ride is easy, and it can save you from being arrested or from injuring or killing yourself or others. Make an effort to plan ahead for a sober ride this Labor Day weekend. You owe it to yourself and everyone else on the road.”
The “Plan While You Can” campaign includes a statewide tour featuring an interactive dodgeball game where participants avoid incoming “dodgeballs” as virtual drinks are added to the screen. As more drinks are added, participants experience how drinking can slow their reaction times as on-screen avatars begin responding more slowly to their players’ movements.
Drivers under the influence of alcohol can face up to $17,000 in fines and fees, jail time and loss of their driver’s license. Visit SoberRides.org to find alternatives to drinking and driving, such as:
• Designating a sober driver or calling someone for a sober ride home
• Contacting a cab or ride-share service
• Using mass transit
• Spending the night