Advice from drunk driver to teens: Don't do what I did

Powerful message from woman who killed best friend as teen in DUI accident

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - In 2016, more than 2,000 teen drivers were involved in a deadly crash in the United States. Alcohol was a factor in 20 percent of those deadly wrecks. 

A woman who killed her best friend in a drunk driving accident when they were just teenagers shares her powerful lesson, hoping it will prevent other tragedies. 

Amber Sweat, 25, said her decision to drive drunk when she was a just a teen, killed her best friend and changed her own life forever.

The memories are still vivid for as she shared stories about that fateful day.

"We were sitting by the fire, listening to music, drinking beer and that's honestly all I remember," Sweat said.

She said that was a typical weekend for her and her friends when she was 17-years-old. But in 2010, things were different when she got behind the wheel -- drunk -- with two friends in the truck and lost control of the truck on her way to a boat ramp in Starke.

"The vehicle flipped six times and Haley was ejected," Sweat said.

Haley Forsyth headstone

Haley Forsyth was a just 17 years-old when she lost her life that night.

She had been Sweat's best friend since they were kids. The memories are still documented through pictures on Forsyth's Facebook page.

Sweat was also hurt in the crash. She was in and out of the hospital for months, suffering from bone fractures and brain swelling.

A mangled mess was all that was left of the truck along with a cooler in the back and a beer bottle by the drivers seat.

"I didn't believe it when they told me she died. I can't believe that I even did that," Sweat said. 

"I can't remember spending the last moments with her," Sweat said. "It's not worth it, don't get behind the wheel. 'You can kill your family member, your best friend, an innocent person.' And that's the hardest thing to live with, knowing that you did that."

Three years after the crash she was arrested and, charged with DUI manslaughter, Sweat was sentenced to two years house arrest, 23 years probation, and her license was revoked.

She's now 25, and after high school, she earned her Certified Nursing Assistant license but will never be able to fulfill her dream.

"I'm a convicted felon, so now I can't work in the medical field, which is hard," said Sweat.

Instead, she is working a minimum-wage job at an air conditioning company. She said it's not was she had planned for her life.

Sweat realizes although she's not able to fulfill her dreams, her best friend, Hailey Forsyth, never got the chance to try to fulfill her dreams.

Now she can only visit Forsyth at her grave site.

"I'm terribly sorry it happened and if I could I'd trade places with her any second," Sweat said.

Sweat speaks about her own experience at local schools and events. She said even though it's tough to think about the tragedy, if her story can save the life of one teen, it's worth it.

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