Each year, thousands of innocent people are struck by drunk drivers, a sobering statistic that continues to impact our nation's streets and highways.
Of the 16,694 people who died in alcohol-related crashes in 2004, 14,409 (86%) were killed in crashes where at least one driver or non-occupant had a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher. The legal limit for BAC is currently .08 in all states in the US.
Little did Los Angeles resident Yvonne Dennis know that her life would dramatically change after her collision with a drunk driver--an encounter that would alter her life forever.
It was a cool and balmy Friday night 13 years ago when Dennis pulled up to a red light at Florence and Normandie Avenues.
Dennis was driving her two sons, Rajon, 16, and Jameel, 10, from a church function. "We had just come from rehearsing a church play, " said Dennis.
"We were teasing Rajon because he had been chosen to play the Prodigal Son and he would have to kiss one of the church members who would be playing his son," recalls Dennis. "I remember Rajon saying, 'I'm not going to kiss anybody.'"
Dennis, a single mother, recalls that her eldest son, Rajon, was quiet and shy. "He was tall, thin, and athletic," said Dennis. "He loved basketball and bicycles. He was also good with his hands."
Jameel was the opposite of Rajon. "Jameel was a knucklehead," recalls Dennis. "He was very talkative and he liked to play practical jokes. He loved his skateboard and he was also good with numbers--he could add up figures without adding on paper. He knew when the man at the 99 cent store was trying to cheat him out of money," Dennis recalls.
As she pulled into the intersection to make a left on the green light, Dennis didn't see the speeding car headed in her direction. The speeding car ran through a red light and smashed broadside into Dennis' vehicle.
"All I could hear was this loud scraping noise," recalls Dennis, who said she was momentarily knocked unconscious. "Someone said to unlock the door and get out of the car. I was just about to turn and tell the boys to get out of the car but the back end of the car wasn't there."
Stunned, Dennis unlocked the car door. "I was in a zombie state," she said. "There must have been about 100 people standing around on the sidewalk. As I walked, people moved out of my way. Then I looked down and saw Jameel lying on the ground. He was unconscious and lying on his stomach. I turned to lift his head up. His skull was cracked open and blood was dripping down his head. I went into shock," said Dennis.
Searching for Rajon, Dennis stumbled 10 to 15 feet down the street. "Rajon was lying in the street on his stomach," said Dennis. "His eyes were wide open, and his legs were twisted like a mop."
The horrific car accident had left Dennis' two sons terribly maimed and barely breathing. Dazed, Dennis stood on the curb trying to comprehend what had just happened.