First Signs Bearing DUI Victims' Names Unveiled - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

01/30/06

First Signs Bearing DUI Victims' Names Unveiled

Families who've lost loved ones to drunk driving crashes now have a new way to remember DUI victims. The State of Georgia has begun posting memorial signs where those victims died. WTOC was at the first such dedication in Bulloch County. It's an emotional thing for families, but the hope is the signs can save others from the same sorrow.

Teresa Shene broke down when she saw her son's name on the side of the roadway where he died. Last May, 17-year-old Donny Harris was in the car with a drunk driver.

"It took away our future with him, took away our grandchildren with him, his hopes, his dreams, all because somebody made a stupid mistake," Shene said.

Donny is the first DUI victim memorialized by a new DOT sign. The second is Helen Heyward, one of three women killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the Talmadge Bridge.

Beside giving the families an avenue to mourn, the hope is other drivers will see one of these signs before they get behind the wheel under the influence.

Last year, more than 300 people died in Georgia from DUI crashes. "Usually all you hear is a statistic," said Cynthia Hagain of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "Well, now we have not just a sign but a person's name attached to it."

Loved ones know nothing will bring Donny back to them, but as Donny Harris, Sr., put it, "If it saves one life, it's worth it."

They hope the signs will help spare another family the same kind of tears and tragedy.

According to the Department of Transportation, these two signs are the only ones planned as of now. When they're placed, the signs will stay there for five years.

We see memorials on the side of the road, but most of the time they're homemade. In some ways, the DOT wants these to replace those. They're afraid the homemade kind may be a distraction. Plus they'd rather have their workers on the side of the road instead of loved ones.

They say just contact the DOT about a loved one and they'll start from there. Contact information is available online at:

http://www.dot.state.ga.us/

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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