Free rides this New Year's Eve - - Jackson, MS

Free rides this New Year's Eve

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By Jewell Hillery – bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) – 2011 is just three days away and lots of people plan to party and celebrate the start of the new year. But if your plans include drinking alcohol, you should think twice before getting behind the wheel. 

"First thing I remember I woke up in the hospital with a beam of light above my eye, the doctor saying we got him back," says Dwight Owens.

Owens turned 29 earlier this week and he considers each birthday a blessing. Owens, now in a wheelchair, is paralyzed from the waist down after a car crash in 2005.

"I was railroaded by a drunk driver who was clocked at over 100 mph, he knocked me off the road and into an embankment," says Owens,

Initially, doctors pronounced Owens dead, but miraculously he survived.

"The car hit a tree and it was basically crushed, they found my body, part of my body on the seat and the other part wrapped around the steering wheel," Owens says.

To help prevent wrecks like that from happening, AMR ambulance service and the Safekids organization are teaming up to bring you home for free if you drink during New Year's Eve celebrations. If you need a ride, you'll get picked up in one of these white vans. Last year, between 300 and 350 people took advantage of the service.

AMR spokesman Jim Pollard says, "We'll be in Jackson and we'll also include Clinton of course and then we'll have some of the other towns that abutt the juxtaposition of the three county lines, Pearl, Flowood, Ridgeland, Madison."

In addition to the free rides this weekend, law enforcement agencies all across the state have received grants to pay officers overtime New Year's Eve weekend to conduct safety and sobriety checks.

"You're going to be seeing law enforcement out there statewide, the presence is going to be overwhelmed," says Robert Hancock from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

In 2009, more than 32,000 DUI citations were issued in Mississippi. There were more than 700 driving related fatalities and more than 200 of those deaths were the result of drivers drinking under the influence.

And with grim statistics like that, Owens wants you to think about his situation before you consider drinking and driving to celebrate the New Year.

Owens says, "Look in the graveyard, there are small, medium and large grave sizes, so therefore don't think you're invincible when it comes to not putting yourself in danger, but putting somebody else's life in danger as well."

Despite the physical obstacles Owens faces, he says he's turned a negative situation into a positive.

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