AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — A silent and emotional tribute to people killed by drunk drivers circled the State Capitol Friday.
AAA Texas hosted the march to take steps to change how people think of impaired driving, regardless of how little they’ve had to drink or how short a distance they have to drive.
“Getting behind the wheel after any amount of alcohol is putting your life at risk as well as others on the roadway,” said Doug Shupe, spokesman for AAA Texas.
The crowd marched around the Capitol in silence to remember all the lives lost to drunk driving.
“We miss her every day and it just hurts very badly knowing her future was taken from her,” said Measha Smith. Her daughter was killed in a crash in North Austin in April of 2015. Smith described her life since that night as “utter pain.” Smith said, “Especially as a parent, just knowing all the things she was supposed to do or could have done won’t happen.”
Maleeca Smith was a 20-year-old college student at the University of Texas-San Antonio. She came home to Austin to visit her mom and sister for the weekend and was helping them make deliveries.
Before heading home for the night, Smith dropped Maleeca at her car with plans to meet up at home. “I told her ‘be careful, I love you and we’ll see you in a little bit,’” Smith said, that was the last time she spoke to her daughter.
According to police, a 26-year-old Shawn Amende was driving drunk when he ran a red light and slammed into her car.
Charged with intoxication manslaughter, Amende is awaiting trial.
Shupe said, “These people have lost their loved ones because of something that was entirely preventable.”
The latest numbers from the Texas Department of Transportation show more than 24,500 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas in 2015. Those crashes resulted in nearly 1,000 deaths and more than 2,100 serious injuries.
Smith marched in her daughter’s memory to give Maleeca a voice, hopeful people will hear her story and not drink and drive.
“You took my baby’s future and you took her away from me and the rest of my family and all of her friends and loved ones,” Smith said.
According to AAA, DWI crashes typically increase during spring break, which for many students in Texas, starts Friday.
Overall, the number of drunk drivers on Texas roads has dropped but according to AAA, drug-impaired driving has increased.
Shupe said, “We want people to remember that drugs, even if they are legal, can impact you driving ability.”