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What are officials doing to curb impaired driving?

Around the country, there are about 500 wrong way driving deaths a year.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — Her daughter’s memory is tattooed on her arm. Faye Maue wears her ashes.

“Hana was killed at 19. So I kind of say she's forever 19," Maue said. 

Her daughter, Hana, was killed last year by a wrong-way driver on Highway 21 in Jefferson County.  

“She had such severe brain damage that no surgery could save her," said Maue.

Mark Akins, a spokesperson with the Jefferson County Juvenile Office, said the driver who crashed into Maue was driving under the influence of alcohol. He said was charged and convicted with driving under the influence of alcohol. It was the second death on this highway as a result of wrong-way drivers within a few years. Since 2018, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has recorded 13 wrong-way driver crashes on Highway 21.

“It's very frustrating," Maue said. 

In our recent survey on the worst St. Louis area roads, 10 other people complained of wrong-way drivers on Highway 21. Among their complaints, “speeding” and “confusing layout and signage.” “Something needs to be done,” one person said. 

Around the country, there are about 500 wrong way driving deaths a year. When alcohol or drugs are involved, the odds of being a victim jump, according to the American Automobile Association.

Here in Missouri, the latest data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows driving deaths involving alcohol represent 29% of all driving deaths.

Researchers with the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety said drugs are making things worse. Over the past decade, drug-impaired driving deaths have increased by about 100%.

With marijuana now legal in Missouri, highway patrol spokesperson Logan Bolton expects to see more drivers under the influence.   

“They'll smoke marijuana and then they'll get behind the wheel or they'll do it while they're driving," Bolton said. “You cannot get behind the wheel after smoking and you can't smoke while you're in the car ... your reaction time slowed ... your judgment is off.”

“What are you doing to try to curb this dangerous trend?” the I-Team's Paula Vasan asked.

“We have the ability to actually kind of visualize where the problem areas are and we can send troopers to those areas to try to be at least more visible and enforce the traffic laws in those areas," he said. 

He said his team is using a new type of software that shows where crashes are happening the most. 

“Will you be taking another look at Highway 21," Vasan asked.

“If it's a problem that the community is reaching out about, we will definitely send more people to that area to make sure it stops," Bolton said. 

Others believe it’s about enforcing harsher penalties for people who drive impaired. 

“Most drunk drivers on average, drive drunk 80 times before they're stopped for their first DWI," Jerod Breit, regional executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a nonprofit, said.

According to the nonprofit, over the past 14 years, ignition interlocks have prevented nearly 128,000 attempts to drive drunk with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater in Missouri, including over 11,000 in 2020 alone.

Interlocks are more effective than license suspension, Breit said. 

According to the CDC, interlocks reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by 67%. An ignition interlock is more effective than license suspension alone, as up to 75% of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. License suspension with the use of an interlock is our best hope for stopping repeat drunk driving. 

Breit said he hopes Missouri will one day require ignition interlock devices for all drunk driver offenders. They’re small breathalyzers that prevent a car from starting unless the person behind the wheel is sober enough.

“But it doesn't seem to be a priority to the legislature," Maue said. 

As Maue visits her daughter’s bedroom, left untouched, she thinks of the future her daughter could have had, if only, she said, another driver had made a different choice. 

“She wanted to help foster kids. She was, you know, just wanted to see this world be a better place," she said. 

A spokesperson with Jefferson County’s Juvenile Office told us criminal charges were filed against the driver, but he can’t go into more detail. The driver’s records are sealed because she was a juvenile when the crash happened. We reached out to the attorney of the driver who crashed into Hana Maue on February 21, 2022. That attorney told us: “I have no comment.”

Maue said she is now in the middle of a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Want to get in touch with Paula about this story on another investigative tip? Email tips@ksdk.com

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