Kevin Jones' highway memorial sign. (Photo source: KLTV Staff).
Kevin Jones. (Photo source: Martha Chavis).
LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) -
An East Texas family is upset that the highway sign marking their loved one's death was removed from Interstate 20. The highway sign spurred years of questions and an ongoing fight with the Department of Public Safety.
Kevin Jones was killed three years ago when a drunk driver hit him head-on just east of Longview. Jones' family wanted to put up a highway sign in his memory, so they requested videos that would show them exactly were the crash happened. Jones' family ended up watching the dash camera video from the crash scene. On the video, they heard a trooper admit he'd pulled the drunk driver over just 40 minutes earlier.
Trooper Borden: I'm feeling bad right now. I stopped him 40 minutes ago.
Unidentified Trooper: Did you?
Trooper Borden: Yeah.
Unidentified Trooper: What was wrong with him?
Trooper Borden: No license. Smelled a little alcohol on him, but I couldn't --- ya know --- wasn't nothing. I couldn't smell a lot on him ya know? Trooper Borden: I was tryin' to get him to call somebody and he tried calling somebody and nobody came. Do you sit there waiting on somebody to call --- ya know? So I left, but I feel bad right now, ya know?
Video from the stop showed the trooper start a field sobriety test, get fed up with the language barrier, and leave the drunk driver on the side of the road.
Trooper Border: You no drive. You can't drive, ok? You can spend the night right there then. I don't care, but you can't drive. Ok? No license.
Chavis is still fighting DPS in a lawsuit. The trooper who made the traffic stop was never disciplined, according to DPS.
"You have a sign there about what happened involving a drunk driver. Then you take it down. It's kind of like, out of sight out of mind," Chavis says.
From the beginning, TxDOT told Chavis the $325 sign would only stay up for two years. Now, the lease has run out and Chavis isn't allowed to pay for it to go up again.
"We'd be willing to pay a fee if we had to pay every year or whatever," says Jones.
Chavis says TxDOT told her the signs have a limited life span to avoid clutter on state highways.
The TxDOT website says, "an installed sign will remain in place for a period of two years."
"What better way to raise awareness for it than... the more signs that are out there showing it, saying someone got killed by a drunk driver here, then 10 feet down the road another one got killed and 20 feet down the road another one killed?" asks Chavis.
"Taking them down... nobody knows. That's the whole point of it-- to bring awareness. So we hope there's someway we could get it to go back up," says Jones.
Chavis keeps the sign at her house propped up against a wall beneath her son's picture. Even though East Texas drivers won't be passing it on Interstate 20 anymore, she hopes they don't forget about her son or think her fight is over.
Chavis says for her, it may never be over because she'll always know that her son's death should have been prevented. Kevin's family says they'd like to see the time limit extended. To learn more about the TxDOT memorial sign project, click here.