JMH, MADD, FHP raise awareness of drunk, distracted driving during holidays

MIAMI (WSVN) - With the holiday season in full swing, a group of officials and victims of drunk driving tragedies are working on raising awareness of the deadly issue.

Doctors from the University of Miami Health System, Florida Highway Patrol troopers and members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving all worked together to remind people of how dangerous it is drive drunk or distracted.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Eve in 2016, 891 people were killed in drunk driving crashes.

“We’re coming up on the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It is one of the most dangerous weeks of the year,” said Helen Witty, a victim advocate for MADD. “What we want is, we want everyone home safe for the holidays.”

FHP Trooper Joe Sanchez said officers need help keeping everyone safe on the road, particularly during the holiday season. “We ask you to have a plan of action,” Sanchez said.

Some of the alternatives posed include calling an Uber or a Lyft, or even calling an old-fashioned taxi. Another alternative is to have a designated driver.

One prominent story during the event was that of 48-year-old Naji El Kadi. Just two days before his wedding celebration in April 2016, he was fatally struck by a drunk driver who had run a red light while speeding.

His fiancee Jihan Haidar learned the news when a police officer answer El Kadi’s cell phone at the scene. “He was funny, energetic,” Haidar said of her fiancé. “Naji got in a car accident caused by Jessica Araujo, who was driving intoxicated, speeding above the speed limit. She ran a red light and crashed into his car.”

Although El Kadi’s death did not occur during the holidays, it shows the devastation and heartache that can come from drunk driving.

“Please have a happy and a safe, a safe, a safe holiday, and just like how you’re gonna plan going out, and just how you’re gonna plan what you’re gonna wear and what kind of alcohol you’re bringing with you to the party, please plan how you’re gonna come back safely,” said Nisrine Alghawi, El Kadi’s sister-in-law.

Araujo was convicted of killing El Kadi. She was sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison, followed by eight years of probation.

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