With Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer, community members on Thursday reminded people around Mid-Missouri to drive sober.
Nationwide, drunk driving kills 10,000 people each year and injures nearly 300,000, according to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving news release. In 2016 in Missouri, 219 people were killed in crashes involving impaired drivers and 669 others were injured, according to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.
"No matter your plans, if they include alcohol, please remember to include plans of having a designated driver," MADD Missouri Executive Director Meghan Carter said. "Use a taxi, use a ride-share service or call a non-drinking friend."
Between 2003-12, 3,314 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Missouri, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During that time, men and women statewide died in alcohol-involved crashes at rates just higher than the national average, according to the CDC.
Dr. Jeffrey Coughenour, a trauma surgeon at the University of Missouri, said MU Health admits 1,800-2,000 injured patients per year. About 10 percent of the patients are admitted because of accidents involving drivers using illegal drugs, Coughenour said. Another 16-18 percent of accidents involve drivers using legal drugs.
Coughenour said he hopes members of the public realize freak accidents can be prevented. Doctors know how to prevent crashes, treat crash victims and rehab crash patients, he said.
"Unintentional injury is no different than lung cancer, colon cancer or any other chronic illness," Coughenour said. "With maybe a degree of forethought, there are quite a number of injuries that can be prevented."
Coughenour said drunk-driving crashes peak in October. Outdoor-related injuries like ATV crashes involving alcohol tend to spike in the summer.
Save Our Medical Air Resources, which advocates saving access to air-ambulance resources across the country, and MADD held an event Thursday at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport. Attendees at the event could look inside two air ambulances that landed at the airport.
Local resident Don Ware said that after a drunk driver struck his motorcycle Oct. 24, 2016, an air ambulance saved his life. On that fall day, Ware and a friend stopped to wait for oncoming traffic to pass so they could make a left turn. An impaired driver struck them at 70 mph and killed Ware's friend instantly.
The crash threw both motorcycles and men about 100 feet. Ware's arm and hand were severely broken in the crash, his pelvis was bolted back together and a burst kidney was removed.
"I'm here and very thankful," Ware said. "People that decide to drink, take drugs, get behind the wheel and become impaired drivers become a weapon."