An Edmond couple is hoping stronger DUI laws can help prevent other families from enduring their heartbreak. Keith and Dixie Swezey shared their story at a State Capitol press conference Wednesday.
On April 4, 2009, the Swezey’s 20-year-old daughter, Erin, was hit and killed by a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was more than three times the legal limit. The driver, a 32-year-old metro man, had just rear-ended another car. In an attempt to flee that accident, he turned his vehicle around and began driving over 100 miles per hour on the wrong side of the Kilpatrick Turnpike, hitting Erin’s car head-on. He also died in the collision.
“The fact that his BAC was .29 was shocking enough, but a quick search on the Internet revealed he had a history of drunk and reckless driving arrests starting when he was just a teen,” said Swezey, Professor of Mass Communications at the University of Central Oklahoma. “Even though his license was suspended for six years and he couldn’t get insurance, he continued to drive drunk. Somewhere along the way, he should have been stopped.”
The Swezey’s contacted State Sen. Clark Jolley and Rep. Jason Nelson to push for tougher DUI laws in Oklahoma.
“This is not an easy process for us, but we’re willing to share our story for Erin in the hopes of passing legislation that may prevent another family from going through such a senseless tragedy,” said Dixie Swezey.
Jolley is the principal author for Senate Bill 529, the “Erin Elizabeth Swezey Act.” Under the bill, anyone convicted of DUI would be required to have an ignition interlock device for a period of two years on a first offense. On a second offense, the device would be required for five years. Subsequent offenses would mean 8 years of driving with an interlock device. In addition, the words “DUI conviction” would be on their driver license for as long as the person was required to have an interlock device.
“As a parent, I cannot even begin to imagine what the Swezey’s have endured—but I do know that we have an opportunity to honor Erin’s memory by strengthening our DUI laws,” said Jolley, R-Edmond. “The goal of this legislation is simply to save lives.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has announced its support of the measure, calling it their number one priority in the Oklahoma State Legislature.
“Oklahoma has the opportunity to take a giant step forward in its fight against drunk driving with thepassage of the Erin Swezey Act,” said Laura Dean-Mooney, MADD’s National President. “MADD commends Senator Jolley for authoring this life-saving legislation to help eliminate drunk driving — a 100 percent preventable crime.”
The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee on Thursday, February 24 at 9:30 a.m. in rooms 419 A and B of the Capitol. If the measure wins approval, it will next be heard by the full Senate. Rep. Nelson will serve as principal author of the bill in the House.
“Our hearts go out to the Swezey’s. This could have happened to any of our families,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “Our task is to do everything in our power to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The Swezey’s have launched a Facebook page, “Erin Swezey Act,” to educate the public about the bill and its progress in the legislature. Launched less than a week ago, the page already has more than a thousand followers. Updates on the legislation are also being posted on Twitter.
MADD testimony in support of the Erin Swezey Act