JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Kathy Shafer knows too well how one bad decision can change many lives forever. Her 17-year-old son David was killed in a DUI crash on New Year’s Eve 2015.
She will never forget how she felt when she answered the door and was greeted by two police officers who were there to deliver news no parent ever wants to hear.
"They said, 'unfortunately, your son passed away at 1:38 this morning,’” she recalled. “That’s when shock hits you and everything slows down.”
PROJECT ROADBLOCK: Make safe choices this holiday season
The crash occurred on U.S. 90 in Baker County when David’s vehicle collided with an SUV. Also killed were his girlfriend, Jessica Perry, and Levi Town, the other driver. Town’s wife, Amber, and the couple’s five children were injured, but they survived.
"It is very painful to know that other people died and that children were harmed,” Shafer said. "It feels like your heart is torn out, stomped on and put back in and you're told to go on living and it's very difficult."
Unfortunately, Shafer is not alone.
In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 40 percent of traffic-related deaths during New Year's involve drunk drivers, and many of them are underage.
Shafer will always remember David as her baby boy, a church-going, adventurous young man who loved decorating the house for Christmas. She cherishes reminders of him, like the gifts he gave.
"It was a clock, like a wood clock, a beautiful clock and I keep it and treasure it because little did I know his time was coming to an end,” she said.
SAFE RIDES: Don't drive drunk. Get a sober ride home.
Shafer’s also haunted by one of the final times she spoke with her son. He had told her he was staying the night at a friend’s house. “I don’t know why I said this, but I said, ‘make good choices,’” she said.
She’s opening up about her story not because it will help heal her wounds or anyone else’s, but rather because she hopes she can convince just one person to make better decisions this holiday season.
If she could go back in time, she would have told her son he could call her any time, day or night, if he needed a safe ride home. “They have to realize someone's there for them,” she said.
News4Jax is sharing Shafer’s story as part of our commitment to Project Roadblock, a nationwide campaign aimed to discourage people from drinking and driving by advocating for safe alternatives, like appointing a designated driver. You can find more below:
AAA’s Tow-To-Go service is available to Floridians and Georgians from Dec. 21 through 6 a.m. Jan. 2. Just dial (855) 2-TOW-2-GO (286-9246) and you can get a confidential ride to a safe location within 10 miles. AAA will take you and your vehicle home, free of charge to both members and non-members.
Keep Our City Safe
The law firm of Farah & Farah is sponsoring its fourth annual Keep Our City Safe program this year. The program will give you a free ride home, via taxi or Uber or zTrip, from 8 p.m. Dec. 31 to 3 a.m. Jan. 1. You must register online to take advantage of this program. To learn more, click here.