Spike in drunk driving deaths across Tennessee this year

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s been four and a half years since Dawn Kruse lost her 16-year-old daughter Maddie to a drunk driver.

“It was a daily struggle,” Kruse said. “It hurt tremendously. There were days, months that you would go without smiling or laughing.”

On May 31, 2015, a drunk driver crashed into the back of a van Maddie and a friend were riding in in Mississippi.

“The van lost control, went into a ditch, hit a utility pole, and kept going til it came to a stop,” Kruse said.

Both teens died. The driver was a repeat DUI offender.

“He should have really been in jail,” the mother said.

It’s a pain more families in Tennessee are feeling each year. So far this year, the state blames 198 deaths on drunk drivers, up from 182 deaths last year.

“Most people believe that it’s not gonna happen to me,” said Lt. Bill Miller, public information officer for Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Despite more deaths, the number of drunk-driving crashes has gone down.

There have been 5,171 drunk-driving crashes in Tennessee this year, compared to 5,327 the same time last year, according to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office.

DUI arrests by THP have also dropped in the past few years. Miller says catching drunk drivers can be tough because of how fast the state is growing.

“Tennessee’s population is growing leaps and bounds and our numbers are not,” Miller said. “We simply have to have the officers out there working.”

Kruse now speaks out against drunk driving. She says with technology making it easier to get a ride home, the number of deaths should be going down.

“There’s Uber,” Kruse said. “There’s taxis. There’s Lyft.”

Kruse is sharing Maddie’s story hoping to spare other families from the pain she’s lived through.

“If we can keep one family from going through what we have to go through, then it’s all worth it,” Kruse said.

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