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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA drunk driving victims speak out

Brandi Walker

Cars drive through a crosswalk on Euclid Avenue just south of Sixth Street on Thursday, Sept. 3. The hit-and-run collision Saturday, Sept. 5, in which four UA students were struck, was close to the new lighted crosswalk.

UA drunk driving victims share their story in hopes of making a difference.

On Sept. 5, five UA students were involved in a serious crash on Euclid Avenue near the UA. The five girls were crossing the street when a driver, Gerald D. Taylor, hit four of the five crossing and fled the scene. Taylor turned himself in to the authorities later that night and the crash was determined to be a hit-and-run drunk driving incident.

Out of the five girls, four were directly impacted by the vehicle. All four victims were sent to Banner—Health University Medical Center Tucson for their injuries. One of them sustained minor injuries, two had serious injuries and one had life-threatening injuries.

One of the students injured in the crash, Jacqueline Cialdella, described the moments immediately after being hit by the car. She said her heart stopped the minute she saw her lifelong friend, Alyssa Belder, lying unresponsive in the street. Belder had sustained life-threatening injuries due to the crash.

“I woke up with my cheek against the street and immediately knew that we were hit,” Cialdella said. “I ran to Alyssa and began to pick up her head and shake her to get her to move out of the street. Then I felt the blood from her head running down my body. I ran to the sidewalk and proceeded to throw up until I could catch my breath.”

According to the website for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, about 290,000 people were injured in the U.S. as a result of drunk driving incidents in 2013, and 10,076 were killed. According to MADD, the organization has helped raise awareness and reduced the number of deaths from drunk driving crashes by 55 percent since its founding in 1980, saving over 300,000 lives.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has reported that 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries such as drunk driving.

MADD victim service specialist Katherine Avenetti works with local Tucson families who are grieving and have been affected by drinking and driving. She said she believes it is important to validate the feelings these families often have and that what has happened to their loved ones is unfair, and should not have happened.

“Drunk driving crashes are 100 percent preventable,” Avenetti said. “This crime does not have to happen and so many people would not be hurt or injured if people simply made one better choice.”

Although the drunk driver did not physically injure the fifth victim, Katie Dufficy, she was still affected by negative repercussions.

According to Dufficy, watching her four best friends get hit by a car has made her lose respect for anybody who chooses to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking.

“Just don’t do it,” Dufficy said. “There are so many other outlets like SafeRide or Uber.”

Dufficy said she feels fortunate that she and her four best friends are all alive after this incident, but said she does not understand why it occurred in the first place.

There are many alternatives to drinking while under the influence of alcohol such as Uber, taxis or other driving services. Avenetti said she suggests coming up with a plan with your friends prior to going out if you know you are going to be drinking. She said designating a non-drinking, sober driver is key to ensuring everyone’s safety.

“This incident made me realize that drinking and driving is killing innocent people everyday and needs to be stopped,” Cialdella said. “Simply calling a friend or a taxi can save thousands of lives.”

Many people fail to take the issue of drunk driving seriously, Avenetti said, because they don’t believe they can ever get caught or harm anyone.

“Drunk driving can and should end in our lifetime,” Avenetti said.

Cialdella reflected on one piece of advice to give to those after the incident.

“You will be glad that you got a safe ride home instead of harming innocent people,” she said.

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