HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Texas Department of Transportation is promoting its Faces of Drunk Driving campaign across Texas.
The public information officer for TxDOT, Octavio O. Saenz, said the campaign features survivors of drunk driving incidents as well as offenders.
“Unfortunately, statistics do not have an emotional attachment to them, that’s why we have these stories in faces against drunk driving,” said Saenz.
The campaign includes a Rio Grande Valley survivor, Analicia Zarate.
“I don’t know what he was thinking, but he ended up hitting the front quarter of the vehicle, and my mother was killed, instantly on the scene,” said Zarate.
Zarate is an Edinburg resident who was four years old when she was involved in a deadly car crash in November 2000.
She said she remembers leaving the church with her mother and woke up in a McAllen hospital a week later.
“I was actually in an induced coma, due to some head trauma that I sustained during the crash, when I woke up, I had missed my mom’s funeral proceedings, I missed her burial,” said Zarate.
She explained that the offender that crashed into her and her mother had three previous DWI incidents.
The drunk driver had four passengers including two children in the vehicle and all survived, according to Zarate.
After recovery and rehab, Zarate said she and her family had to deal with the trauma of the unexpected death.
She explained that ten years after the tragedy, she searched for the driver and learned he was in the country illegally and he served two years in prison before being deported out of the U.S.
Zarate said in 2018, she researched the driver again and learned he had returned to the United States and was in a Texas prison serving time for driving under the influence again.
“He killed my mom, he injured a young child, he left my family in ruins, and he still came back and decided to drink and drive again”Analicia Zarate – Survivor
She said during the time of this discovery she was active with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the information she learned lead her to advocate against drunk driving even more.
“I try to share my story to encourage people, not to drink and drive, you don’t want this trauma not only for yourself but for your family. Your family is going to suffer, if you affect somebody else’s family, their family is going to suffer, our community suffers at large,” said Zarate.
“I’m not an advocate for people to not drink, I’m not telling you to not go and drink, what I am going to tell you is to be responsible with your drinking,” said Zarate.
Both Zarate and Saenz said it is important to plan ahead if choosing to drink and drive.
“When you know you’re going to be out having a drink, make a plan. Make a plan to call a taxi, to use a rideshare app, or get a ride from a friend,” said Saenz.
For more information on TxDOT’s Faces of Drunk Driving, visit their website.