AUSTIN (KXAN) — It is one of the biggest killers in Texas. More than a thousand people died last year alone in drunk driving crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Then, there are those still living with the pain caused by a drunk driver more than a decade ago.
On September 1, 2000, Stacey Heizer was five days away from turning 17. She was driving with three girlfriends in the car when a drunk driver, with five prior DWI arrests, hit them head on.
Stacey was in a coma nearly three months, and spent another six months in the hospital.
“I hate it that I still get very emotional,” said Stacey’s mother Carolyn Heizer. “But it was the waiting, not knowing how she was going to be.”
Fourteen years later Stacey, 30, is able to walk — something doctors said she would never be able to do. But it is not easy living with permanent brain damage.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through the pain I go through on a daily basis,” Stacey said. She still goes to physical, cognitive and speech therapy for several hours each week.
“I have a learning disability and I can’t go to school and get a degree and live the quote, unquote, normal life,” she said.
After moving to Austin for therapy five years ago, she began sharing her story more often for large groups that range from prisoners to high school students.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Stacey told a crowd gathered outside the State Capitol Friday.
She and her family joined AAA for a silent march to remember lives changed by drunk drivers, and urge others to think about lives they could change if they choose to drink and drive.
“The thought that it’s a God given right to drink and drive in this state which it still is, is an attitude that needs to be changed,” said John Heizer, Stacey’s father.