COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Surrounded by caskets and hearses in the parking lot of a cemetery, advocates for the prevention of drinking and driving launched their annual campaign for July.
Law enforcers say they want to send a "sobering" message this year about the dangers of drinking and driving during the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day holidays. Troopers, deputies and officers from many Salt Lake County jurisdictions, including the Utah Highway Patrol and the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, surrounded the coffins and hearses with an impressive showing of squad cars and motorcycles.
The message the group wanted to get across was, "This may be your last ride if you drink and drive."
UHP Col. Lance Davenport said the message is nothing new. Yet, it apparently has not been getting across, he said.
"This is an effort to add more horse power to the message," Davenport said. "We're serious. ... Don't drink and drive."
Impaired driving is not an accident or victimless crime, he said. And if the threat of injury or death does not deter someone from drinking and driving, maybe the threat of long legal and financial consequences will, he said.
Sen. Carlene Walker, whose sister and niece were killed by two teenagers in a drunken driving accident 37 years ago, said the cemetery backdrop for the campaign should help people visualize that drunken driving statistics are more than just a bunch of numbers.
"Numbers mean nothing if you don't put a name and face to those numbers," the Republican from Cottonwood Heights said.
Most people never intend to drink and drive, Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo said. But often times they go to a party, have a few more drinks than expected and then try to justify driving themselves home.
"Those who think it's acceptable to drive when they simply feel 'buzzed,' it's not acceptable," he said.
Harry and Enid Hudson attended Tuesday's DUI campaign kickoff. Their grandson, 18-year-old Christopher Oseguera, was killed along with 19-year-old Casey Dugdale in a drunken driving accident in January of 2000. A third man was critically injured but survived.
Dugdale's Jeep was stopped at the intersection of 3500 South and 3200 West when a pickup truck driven by Paul Upwall slammed into the back, causing it to roll and catch fire. Dugdale and Oseguera were trapped inside the burning vehicle. Aaron Sharples, 19, was thrown from the back seat but survived.
Upwall, who was drunk, ran away.
Tuesday, wearing T-shirts and buttons to remember their grandson, the Hudsons said they think of Oseguera daily.
"His dream was to play professional soccer," Harry Hudson said. "Every day I go by a field and see the little kids playing soccer, I always look to see if my grandson is running with them."
Upwall was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison on charges of automobile homicide and DUI with injury under a plea deal the victims were very vocal in opposing. Now, the Hudsons say Upwall is scheduled to be released early from prison later this year. According to the Board of Pardons and Parole, Upwall is scheduled for release Nov. 27.
"I think it's really awful. He should have spent his life in there as far as I'm concerned," Enid Hudson said.