Friday, November 14, 2014

I Was On The News!!

As many of you know, I was in a near-fatal car crash in 2005 with an 18-wheeler merely two weeks after my high school graduation from McKinney North. The crash and impact were so severe that it caused my neck to break, damaged my C6 spinal cord, and ultimately resulted in me becoming paralyzed.

We don't always understand why things happen and can spend our entire lives wondering, questioning, and reliving moments. Or we can embrace our past and present experiences, learn from them, and help others along the way. We have all been through unique and extraordinary events -- some of intense depth, pain, and struggle and others of amazing greatness and honor. We are all on a journey of understanding and purpose and all have something to offer this world.

In 2009, I started sharing my story - a story of perseverance from bullying, recreational drug and alcohol use, and extreme loss; forgiveness; self-discovery; and purpose. One of the organizations that I align with and share my story through is Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). I was presented an opportunity this week to serve as a guest speaker at this year's Dallas and Tarrant County Joint DWI Task Force Press Conference (11/12/2014) held in Grand Prairie. The mission was to encourage responsibility during this holiday season and present recent updates to DWI offense handling.


Courtesy: @GrandPrairiePD 

NBC 5 DFW: Holiday DWI Crackdown


"Leaders from Dallas and Tarrant Counties are joining forces to send a simple message- don’t drink and drive. A press conference in Grand Prairie multiple law enforcement agencies, a totaled vehicle from a DWI crash, and a survivor, who said a wrong choice changed her life forever."


Lee, Christine. "Holiday DWI Crackdown." NBC 5 DFW. 12 November 2014. Web. 14 November 2014.!/news/local/Holiday-DWI-Crackdown/282481601.

STAR TELEGRAM: Police to pay special attention to drunken drivers this holiday season

Drunken drivers beware.

Law officers will be out in force this holiday season and looking for such impaired drivers, officials from Tarrant and Dallas counties said Wednesday.

Prosecutors, police, deputies, medical personnel and politicians are all on the same page, said Richard Alpert, Tarrant County assistant district attorney. Those who get pulled over on suspicion of driving drunk will be taken off the streets, they will have their blood drawn even if they refuse to submit to a test, and they will be prosecuted, Alpert said.

Alpert said he expects more than 150 drunken driving arrests in Tarrant County during the holiday season. He said that if people really want to avoid becoming a statistic, they can follow his example.

“I’m not on the roads between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. during the holidays,” Alpert said at a news conference in Grand Prairie. “I leave those roads to the police.”

Most of the people officers expect to arrest are repeat offenders or will have blood-alcohol levels nearly twice the legal limit, which is 0.08, Alpert said.

Tarrant County Commisioner Andy Nguyen also cautioned motorists to designate a sober driver or stay at home during the holiday season.

“The holidays should be a time for rejoicing,” he said, “not for mourning.”
Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye said those who get caught drinking and driving can expect to spend about $10,000 by the time they complete the court process.

“We are all paying for it,” Dye said. “Drunk driving costs an average insurance customer an additional $800 on their yearly insurance premium.”

Jason Derscheied, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is the most dangerous time for those trying to avoid being involved in a collision with an impaired driver.

Near the end of the news conference, Tonya Winchester pulled her wheelchair up to the microphone and said a drunken driver cost her the use of much of her body. Almost a decade ago she was drinking with friends and handed her car keys to a friend who had been drinking but was confident he could drive.

The friend ran a stop sign and an 18-wheeler crashed into her jeep at 40 mph, said Winchester, now 27.

“I woke up two weeks later in a hospital unable to feel, speak or breathe,” Winchester said. “I broke my neck and was told that I would be paralyzed for the rest of my life.”

But that’s not what bothers her most, Winchester said.

“The hardest part of my injury is having to watch the people I love suffer through my decision with me,” she said. “Every decision we make has meaning. My message is to encourage you to think before any decision you make and be responsible.”

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 Twitter: @mitchmitchel3 THANKS FOR SHARING MY STORY!

Read more here:

Mitchell, Mitch. "Police to pay special attention to drunken drivers this holiday season." Star Telegram: Crime And Safety. 13 November 2014. Web. 14 November 2014.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: DWI enforcers on holiday alert in Dallas and Tarrant counties

GRAND PRAIRIE — Tonya Winchester was trying to avoid driving drunk one night while celebrating her graduation from McKinney North High School in 2005. But the friend to whom she handed her keys wasn’t as thoughtful.

An 18-wheeler slammed into the passenger side of Winchester’s car after her friend — who had also been drinking — barreled through a stop sign into State Highway 5 in McKinney. Winchester woke up in a hospital two weeks later unable to speak, move or breathe.

The 27-year-old Winchester, who remains paralyzed below her chest, shared her story as a cautionary tale Wednesday during an annual news conference to announce ramped-up DWI enforcement for the holiday season in Dallas and Tarrant counties. Officials from both counties said they hope their efforts will deter people from drunken driving during a festive time of the year.

“We’ve got to break the cycle,” Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye said. “As a society, we must collectively send a message that driving while intoxicated is no longer acceptable.”

Officials say their plans will include a no-refusal initiative, which means officers will seek warrants to obtain
blood samples from anyone under suspicion of DWI who refuses to provide the specimens voluntarily.

Prosecutors, magistrate judges, nurses and lab workers are available to police departments around the clock to process arrestees.

Dye said no-refusal initiatives, which have become commonplace around holidays, eliminate the burdensome process that most officers go through during DWI arrests.

Richard Alpert, Tarrant County assistant district attorney, said anyone arrested on a DWI charge would face the full consequences of the law. He expects about 150 cases during the holidays in his county.

He advised people to come up with a plan to avoid driving drunk or becoming a victim of drunken drivers. He said he stays off the roadways between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. “What I’m hoping for is that the community will get the message that those who consider putting themselves and others at risk will understand that this is not the place to do it,” he said.

Dallas County had 49 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2013. Tarrant County recorded 24. That included the four pedestrians killed by 16-year-old Ethan Couch of Burleson, who had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit for adults. Alpert prosecuted the Couch case, which infamously ended in probation for the “affluenza” teen, sparking national outrage. But Alpert said intoxication manslaughter case filings have dropped “surprisingly” recently.

Still, officials said DWI crashes hurt everyone by raising area insurance rate rates. Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia, who organizes the annual news conference, said people shouldn’t be afraid to be a “party pooper” by stopping someone from drinking and driving, possibly preventing a life-altering accident.

That certainly rang true for Winchester. In some ways, she has moved on with her life. She studies social work at the University of North Texas. She and her boyfriend celebrated their 12th anniversary recently. And she volunteers for Meals on Wheels and mentors another wheelchair user in McKinney.

Still, the once hard-partying Winchester said she sees herself as not just a victim, but an offender.

“The hardest part of my injury is watching those I love suffer the consequences of my actions alongside of me,” she said. “Day in and day out, their bodies grinding away in my care. All the people that I ran to, that I would party with — they aren’t in my life today.

“But you know who is? My family.”

Hallman, Tristan. "DWI Enforcers on Holiday Alert in Dallas and Tarrant Counties." The Dallas Morning News. 13 November 2014. Web. 14 November 2014.


Monday, November 10, 2014

November Speeches

November 12, 2014 - Speaking at the Dallas County & Tarrant County Joint DWI Press Conference at 10:00 am located at the Grand Prairie Police Headquarters (1525 Arkansas Lane, Grand Prairie, TX 75052).

November 18, 2014 - Speaking at MADD's Adult VIP at 6:00 pm located at the Salvation Army (600 S. Wilson Creek Parkway, McKinney, Texas 75069.