A WINK News investigation shows Southwest Florida is on pace to set records for drunken driving this year.
It’s a trend law enforcement and drunk driving victims are both desperate to change.
Cecilia Chester-Hamm is one of the many people living in Southwest Florida affected by a drunk driving incident.
“It’s crazy,” Chester-Hamm said. “I don’t understand.”
In April 2019, Chester-Hamm’s husband Kevin Wayne Hamm, 46, and stepson 20-year-old Christian Wayne Hamm were in a head-on collision with an impaired driver.
“Both of them were killed,” Chester-Hamm said.
The impaired driver, William Frederick Bohl, 37, is serving a 20-year sentence for the crime.
Less than a year after that crash, Chester-Hamm’s son walked away from a Cape Coral crash where a drunk driver hit him after his car broke down more than 10 feet off a busy road.
“People don’t realize that when you do things like this, it affects you and everything else,” Chester-Hamm said.
“With DUI crashes, the tragedies, you see a victim, whoever was struck by the impaired driver. But then you have the offender who ends up suffering some kind of loss,” said Sgt. Kristi Neroni, Fort Myers Police Department. “You ultimately see tragedies on both ends of the spectrum.”
Through July, there have been 428 DUI arrests in Cape Coral compared to 452 in all of 2020.
In Fort Myers, through July, there have been 241 DUI arrests, compared to 250 for all of 2020.
“This year’s definitely seen an upward rise, so we’re trying to get that prevention and trying to get out there and make sure people understand, you’ve got to be cautious in all aspects on the roadway,” Neroni said.
Chester-Hamm knows she can never get her husband and stepson back but she hopes by becoming a voice against impaired driving, their memories can live on.
“They’re involved with our daily lives still,” Chester-Hamm said. “There’s always a memory.”
The increase in impaired driving incidents is a reminder of the heartbreak she’s endured but she still has hope.
“Please, for you, for your family, for other families, reach out, call somebody, call an Uber, call Lyft,” Chester-Hamm said. “Something good has to come out of such tragedy. I think that with anything tragic that happens, we have to find something positive, something to carry on through everybody’s life.
“If just one person changes their mind, I think we’ve been successful.”