Wednesday, December 06, 2000

DUI victims honored at vigil

Lower limits urged for drinking drivers

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONTGOMERY — Tenuous flashes of light danced atop small, white wax pillars encased in glass as Nelda and Larry Richey, of Bethel, held each other and remembered their daughter, Jana.

        Killed 2 1/4 years ago in a head-on collision caused by a drunken driver, Jana Richey, 33, was one of hundreds of area people remembered during the Mothers Against Drunk Driving annual candlelight vigil held inside Montgomery Church of Christ on Tuesday night.

[photo] Geneva L. McSwain of Hamilton lights a candle for her sister and nephew who were killed in a drunk driving accident.
(Enquirer photo)
| ZOOM |
        “Not a day goes by that you don't think about it,” said Jana's sister, Lisa Day, of Bethel. “It's something you feel all the time.”

        Jana was driving along U.S. 52 in Brown County about 6 a.m. Aug. 23, 1997, when her car was struck by another vehicle, her family said. “She died instantly,” Mrs. Richey added. The other driver was convicted of driving drunk and causing the crash and has since been released from prison, Mr. Richey added.

        The couple thinks that lowering the legal intoxication limit in Ohio from 0.10 to 0.08 will do much to prevent tragedies such as they've experienced.

        And they say everyone, whether employed as a judge, lawyer, lawmaker or street sweeper, should work to “keep drunks off the roads.”

        This week, Ohio Senate President Dick Finan vowed to fight a federal mandate to lower the intoxication limit, a move that would threaten millions of dollars in federal highway funds for Ohio if successful.

        Calling the law a “slippery slope” and “federal blackmail” Mr. Finan, an Evendale Republican, said it infringes on local control, could penalize social drinkers and could eventually lead to laws similar to Prohibition.

        Signed into law Oct. 23 by President Clinton, the plan calls for the legal blood-alcohol limit to be lowered by Oct. 1, 2003. If states do not comply, 2 percent of their scheduled 2004 federal highway funds will be withheld. If they lower legal blood-alcohol levels by 2007, the funds would be released.

        “This law does not infringe on anyone's rights,” said Mrs. Richey, a member of MADD.

        “If (Mr. Finan) had ever had a child killed by a drunk driver, he would understand why this is necessary.”

        Andrea Rehkamp, executive director of the southwestern chapter of MADD, said the group will form a coalition to address Mr. Finan's position.

        In Ohio, there were 458 people killed in alcohol-related crashes in 1999, MADD officials said, adding that there were more than 15,500 people nationwide killed last year in similar incidents.


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