INDIANOLA, Miss.–If you think that drinking and driving is okay just one time, meet Kevin Hodges. That’s what he though when he partied with some buddies at a bar in Indianola back in 1998. Pulling out in front of an 18-wheeler that was going 70 mph changed his mind and his life forever.
“He hit me in my driver’s door, pushed me 120 yards sideways,” said Hodges, speaking at a Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over press conference Friday, by the Miss. Dept. of Public Safety.
Hodes, now of Richland, said the next he remembered was waking up in a Memphis hospital and he only got there because an ex-Marine pilot was brave enough to fly the medical helicopter through a storm to get him there.
“My first surgeries lasted over 12 hours. They had to go back in for many more surgeries after that.”
Hodges could’ve died, but he didn’t. Now he’s living with permanent damage.
“I was blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, I can’t smell anymore, broken jaw, I’ve got eight metal plates, a wire holding my sinus cavity together, a wire holding my eye socket together,” said Hodges.
He said he had to have reconstructive surgery for one side of his face.
“I don’t want to see anybody else do that.” He now volunteers for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and speaks at events like Friday’s.
Twenty seven people in Mississippi were not as lucky as Hodges last year during the two-week holiday period surrounding Labor Day. Fourteen of those people died as a result of alcohol, according to records from the Highway Patrol.
But, those numbers have gone down in recent years, and the Dept. of Public Safety is convinced it’s because people are listening to their message that if you drive drunk, you’ll end up with cuffs on.
“We want our law-abiding motorists to know that we will do everything in our power to make sure that the streets and the highways in this state are safe,” said Col. Donnell Berry, of the Highway Patrol. “For those who are not law-abiding citizens, we want you to know that we don’t care if you drink, but if you drink and drive, you will be caught and you will be arrested.”
The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign started Friday and goes through Sept. 2. The two weeks leading up to Labor Day are traditionally the most dangerous on Mississippi highways, but from 2013 to 2014 the number of deaths went down by seven. That’s seven families that did not have to get the bad news.