December 9, 1993

about 830PM

A drunk driver can change your life forever

Maria, my wife, and Anne, my high school daughter, were going North on Ship Rd, just below Valley Hill Rd, heading back from K Marts, Exton, where they had taken a roll of film to be developed. Maria was driving. Anne had just taken pictures with the full moon for a school project. She loved photography.

Another car, driven by a drunk driver, went into the curve way too fast, and over-corrected, going into the opposite lane, first striking Maria's Camaro head-on at a very high rate of speed, and then went up in the air, came down, and struck her Camero again on the drivers side.

Maria had seen the car coming on the wrong side moments before and had almost stopped as far off the road as she could to the side.

She was able to call me at home for help on her cell phone. I quickly called police describing what I learned, and then headed to the scene about 2 miles away, arriving just as the ambulances were arriving.

The Camero was a mess. You could tell it was completely destroyed at one glance. Maria and Anne were still in the Camaro, unable to get out because of their injuries and also because of the condition of the car. The camaro was smoking alot. The battery under the hood seemed to be the source. I called attention to the rescue personel as they were concentrating on the other driver who had been thrown completely through her windshield. Her ear was almost severed off.

Maria was bleeding from the mouth, had pains in her chest, and her leg and foot wouldn't move. Anne was having trouble breething from the burning fumes and her knee and wrist was in great pain.

Rescuers began prying Anne's door open and they moved her to an ambulance. After Maria's door was pryed open, she was then moved to the same ambulance. Both were taken to Paoli Hospital. The other lady was taken to Brandywine Trama Center in another ambulance.

Maria's foot was completely shattered. The doctor compared it to dropping a vase and having it go into countless pieces. Her tongue was the source of the blood. It needed to be stitched up. Maria was scheduled for surgery the next day where Dr Mannsman placed the pieces back together as best as possible, pinning the bigger pieces. Maria spent 5 days in the hospital. The seatbelt saved her life, leaving bruses along her front. Maria had 4 additional surgerys on her foot in the next few years. She still complains of pain in her foot after all these years.

Anne was kept in the hospital overnight after being splinted. She had surgery on her knee sometime later.

We had learned the night of the accident that not only was the other driver very drunk, but that she had just been refused purchasing more liquor at the state store in Marchwood. She was said to have left in a rage and very hastily. We also learned that she worked for a large insurance company in the area.

I owned a small computer business, a small one person shop with no employees. During the next weeks, I was spending time with Maria at the hospital and caring for her at home. She was unable to move around and was also in alot of pain. I was very upset and couldn't work. After several weeks, I came to the conclusion that I somehow needed to get back into the grove and start making money again. Bills were piling up. Christmas was almost here and no one had been Christmas shopping. Actually there wasn't any money to spend on Christmas.

Bob Atchinson, a youth minister from our church (Paoli Presbyterian), stopped by to see how I was doing at the store. We were fairly close. He must have also seen what was going on. He handed me a check for $300 so we could actually have Christmas. I was choked up pretty good when I called Maria on the phone to tell her the news.

A claim adjuster from the drunk lady's insurance company came to our house with a check not too long after the accident to re-imburse us for our vehicle. Although they paid close to fair market for our camaro, we had just paid $1200 to have it repainted. That was not re-imbursable.

Anne was having a rough time at school (Great Valley High). She was having trouble moving around between classes. Her phys ed teacher didn't help either. He was pushing her beyond the limit. Anne had notes from doctors but he chose to push anyway. Anne was very unhappy. Normally she was a very good student. Her grades were suffering. She had trouble concentrating because of her leg problems from the accident. She spent alot of time at the nurses office.

The drunk driver was charged with drunk driving. She applied for ARD, one of the programs for first time offenders. She was turned down. She applied for another program and was accepted. She received community service and lost her licence for 6 months.

MADD had support services that we used after someone called our attention it them. Madd was with us at the drunk's hearing and they also had a theropist that was very helpful. We are grateful for not only their support, but for the efforts in changing laws. We only wish that courts would back up the laws to the fullest extent. The judge claims to be sympathetic to the victum, but he was predictable.

Chester County has signs up on major highways "Drunk Drivers Go To Jail". What a joke. If you have enough money and a lawyer, you don't. Trouble is, the lawyers and judges all drink. They are too sympathetic to the drunk. If you have a job, you can get your license back in 30 days.

It's been 7 years since the accident. None of us will ever forget it. We live with the outcome and pain. We are lucky that no one lost their life here. We know it could have been worse.

If drunks actually spent 6 months in jail, with no chance of these programs, and not working where they would need to get their licenses back, a stronger message would go out to "not to drink and drive." The message presently is "take a chance. You might have to spend some money, but you won't go to jail."

Support MADD! Don't Drink and Drive! Better yet, why even drink?

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Mothers Against Drink Driving