Officials want you to Pay Attention, East Texas, to reduce rate of auto collisions - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Officials want you to Pay Attention, East Texas, to reduce rate of auto collisions

Just in the past 10 days, we've reported a dozen deaths in fatal vehicle accidents. In fact, East Texas has an 86% higher rate of collisions with injury or death than anywhere else in Texas.

Today, a coalition of many organizations, including DPS, MADD, the Texas Department of State Health Services and several local insurance agencies kicked off what they call Pay Attention East Texas, or PAET.

"There is only one thing you can control - that is yourself and the vehicle you are driving. So Pay Attention East Texas was a coalition founded to try and reduce the number of traffic crashes in East Texas," said Trooper Jean Dark.

They say there are four reasons for vehicle accidents - driver impairment, distractions, speed and inexperience. The first part of this campaign will focus on impairment, specifically, alcohol and drug related accidents. Thursday, KLTV 7's Danielle Capper spoke to the family of two victims killed at the hands of a drunk driver.

Two white crosses still sit at the corner of Front Street and South Broadway, a reminder of the lives lost there last summer: Martha Mondragon and her unborn baby boy.

Corinna Ruiz is Martha's first cousin. She spoke for the family today, and remembers the day in June 2007 very well.

"I felt very uncomfortable that night, but it was a phone call from my mom that the accident had happened and that my cousin had been killed by a drunk driver," said Corinna.

Martha, who was 8 months pregnant, was on her way home from a family party. She was with her 6 year old daughter Bianca, and was hit by a drunk driver. Bianca was severely injured and immediately flown to Dallas. She was in a coma for days.

"Be able to make it through this terrible accident and then going on to explain it to her and that mom wasn't here anymore," said Corinna.

Bianca is now doing well, but it's been a journey for the whole family. In November, the drunk driver that hit her, 15 year old Jaime Arrellano, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years.

"It's a life. And it's hard after that, you have to go through trials and everything else and it just makes it long and hard to get through. It's a terrible time," said Corinna.

The family wants no one else to have to go through what they did and want to use their story to help others.

"Pay attention, East Texas, because it can happen to you," Corinna warned.

So when you see the marketing for the new PAET campaign, they hope it catches your eye - so you drive safe and save lives.

Danielle Capper, reporting.

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