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'Consequences are too great': Parents of woman killed by impaired driver make public plea

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Kathrynn Shaw, 18, was just three days away from graduating high school. She had already secured a scholarship to attend Southern Utah University to become an emergency room nurse so she could help others.

But on May 22, 2017, Shaw was hit by an impaired teenage driver and killed.

"I think that was probably the most shocking thing for us," her mother, Kara Shaw, said Wednesday as she tried to hold back her tears. "Because she was so driven to achieve. So driven to make good things happen, to help others."

On Wednesday, the Utah Highway Patrol, along with partners from the Mapleton Police Department and the Utah County Sheriff's Office, announced the annual "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" enforcement effort for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

The theme of this year's enforcement effort is, "Every sip has a consequence." From now through Sept. 6, more than 20 law enforcement agencies statewide will work more than 180 overtime shifts dedicated solely to looking for impaired drivers, according to the UHP.

In 2020, there were 61 people killed in Utah's freeways because of crashes involving an impaired driver, the UHP stated. So far this year, there have been 58 fatalities as of Wednesday. Over the past 10 years in Utah, drivers between the ages of 21 and 39 were most likely to cause a fatal drunk driving crash, according to UHP statistics, and 72% of the people arrested for those incidents were male.

"These are the people we are desperately trying to reach," UHP Sgt. Cameron Roden said of the new campaign, which he hopes will provide a "reality check" to some drivers.

"People need to understand the severe consequences from choosing to drink and drive," he said.

To help reenforce their message, Devin and Kara Shaw were invited to talk about their experience with an impaired driver.

In 2017, the Shaws' daughter, Kathrynn, was days away from graduating from Mapleton High School when she and a group of friends headed to the river bottoms in Spanish Fork to go longboarding. They were driving along Main Street in Mapleton when they were hit by another vehicle that blew past a stop sign at 1600 North. The SUV Shaw was traveling in rolled, and she was ejected.

Shaw was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead from her injuries four hours later.

"This is a strong, vibrant, crazy, adventurous, driven, excited-to-be-a-nurse and go-to-college girl. And her life was sniffed out in four hours," a tearful Kara Shaw said.

Kara Shaw takes down a photograph of daughter Kathrynn to bring back home at a Utah Department of Public Safety event in Mapleton on Wednesday. Kathrynn Shaw was days away from graduating high school when police say an impaired driver ran through a stop sign and struck the car she was traveling in, resulting in her death. Law enforcement is working extra shifts now through Sept. 6, actively patrolling for impaired drivers.
Kara Shaw takes down a photograph of daughter Kathrynn to bring back home at a Utah Department of Public Safety event in Mapleton on Wednesday. Kathrynn Shaw was days away from graduating high school when police say an impaired driver ran through a stop sign and struck the car she was traveling in, resulting in her death. Law enforcement is working extra shifts now through Sept. 6, actively patrolling for impaired drivers.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The driver of the car that hit the group of girls was a 17-year-old boy who was also with friends. The boy had just smoked marijuana at a house two blocks away, and got into his car with his friends and drove an estimated 50 mph through a residential area, according to the family.

There were no signs of braking when the boy went through the stop sign and hit Kathrynn Shaw's vehicle.

"We've all been young. We've all been dumb and made mistakes. But this mistake took our daughter's life — an amazing, amazing girl that had the whole world in front of her and so many opportunities. So I was angry. And it took a matter of months and even years to work through this and to forgive him," Devin Shaw said.

The Shaws later learned that the boy was in a "dark place" at the time of the crash. Today, Devin Shaw describes him as a "good kid" who was "going down a dark road" at the time and who made a bad choice. The Shaws, although they have not had contact with the boy since his court hearings, hope he has used the tragic incident as a second chance to get a new lease on life and to not drive impaired again.

The family also hopes others will listen to their story and their message, both adults and teenagers alike.

"If we can help just one person decide today, right now, to not drive while under the influence or alcohol or drugs — and that includes prescription drugs — then this is worth it for us. No parent should have to bury a son or daughter," Devin Shaw said.

He said parents should talk to their children about drinking and drug use now, even if it's uncomfortable, in order to develop an open line of dialogue in case they need help later.

"It's much better that they are comfortable enough to call you, mom and dad, than to get behind the wheel and drive home impaired and perhaps take someone's life," he said. "I plead with you, decide today, have a conservation with your teenage children today."

Shaw said it's been four years, three months and two days since the tragic crash, and "we think about her every day."

Kathrynn Shaw was a member of the drill team at school. She had worked to become a certified nursing assistant during high school and was saving her money for college to earn her nursing degree, something her family said she was dedicated to.

"And to know that you're not going to know the crazy things she did at SUU with her friends and her funny adventures and goofy stories. You're not going to see her graduate, all of her friends are graduating from college right now. You're not going to know who she marries. You're not going to know about her kids. You don't get any of that. It just ended. And that is the hard thing that you just know, that's it."

But the Shaws say they also have their faith to help them.

"We feel that she is good, that he is in a good place. And she is achieving and growing and those things, but we just don't get to see it. And that's the hardest part," Kara Shaw said.