TAMPA, Fla. - New Years Eve, one of the deadliest time for fatal crashes, is just days away.
The Florida Highway Patrol will have extra patrol officers on the road, putting those drinking and driving behind bars.
Unfortunately, FHP has already put someone in jail for that very reason.
Billy Catherwood, 63, was arrested Thursday morning, suspected of hurting three children Thursday night in a hit-and-crash.
He did not have a valid driver's license because he has a string of DUIs, according to arrest reports.
In 2011, Catherwood got his 4th DUI.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson Sgt. Steve Gaskins says he has no prior knowledge of these other DUI charges, but knows Catherwood will spending a lot of time in jail.
“He has multiple counts because more than one person was injured, he's got a DUI on top of that, he blew a 0.15 at the jail, which is almost twice the legal limit, that combined with no valid driver's license, which means he's looking at some serious jail time,” says Gaskins.
We spoke with a member of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) Robin Powell, whose life was changed after a drunk driver crashed into her.
It was Super Bowl weekend 16 years ago. A drunk driver hit Powell's car head-on. It paralyzed her from the shoulders down.
“She crossed all four lanes. She hit us head on and we never saw her coming,” says Powell. “I will never walk any faster. I have to be careful of how I step because If I step wrong, I will fall.”
That driver did not go to jail. Powell told the judge she forgave the driver, who received probation.
In the state of Florida, if a victim is seriously injured or killed while the person is under the influence, that's automatic jail time.
“I had to make that choice at that time. I'm not ever sorry I did that. I am a miracle, I walk again, i feed myself, I'm a normal woman again,” she says.
Aside from that choice, Powell feels there does need to be harsher laws for those drinking and driving.
For the past 12 years, she has been speaking to people charged with DUI, some of which go on to repeat again.
“I can tell from looking at people, they don't get it. They're there because they're court-ordered,” she says.
With New Year's days away, Powell hopes her story will inspire people to make the right choice even though deep down, she feels someone, somewhere in Tampa Bay will get in the car drunk anyway.
“Someone is going to end up dying Sunday night. We're going to wake up Sunday night and a family is going to be wiped out. I don't mean to speak like that, but someone is going to get hurt Sunday night because someone made the wrong choice”
Powell has kept up with the person who hit her, She says 16 years later, that driver hasn't received another DUI.
Remember there are many, many ways to avoid driving drunk. Here are just a few.
Uber and Lyft
Have a ride-sharing app on your phone. These are just two options.
Remember 'surge pricing' is often in effect during major events. It can cost you more to get home, especially during the Super Bowl, but it's far cheaper than a DUI.
You can hire a personal driver for your car, which will cost about $20 per hour. They can also pick up your car, so say you left it at a bar, it'll cost around $25.
Don't forget about the oldest method of ride sharing available.
Tow To Go
Free confidential ride available to AAA Members and non-members. It will be available until 6 a.m. Tuesday,
- Tow trucks can usually transport up to two people. If there are more people in your party, you will need to make other arrangements to get them home safely.
- You can't make an appointment to use Tow to Go. It is designed as a safety net for those that did not plan ahead. Always choose a Designated Driver before you have your first drink. (855) 2-TOW-2-GO or (855) 286-9246