Three years ago this month, 17-year-old Patricia Powell was struck and killed by a motorist who had a blood-alcohol level more than double the legal limit for driving.
If the man had gotten a ride, rather than getting behind the wheel, the Ellet teen might still be alive today.
“All it takes is that once,” said Kate Grady, Patricia’s aunt.
Grady attended a news conference Thursday to lend her support to the Arrive Alive program, which will offer free cab rides to Summit County residents during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
“I think it’s a really great program,” said Grady whose family has been trying to help spread the word about the dangers of drunken driving since Patricia's death. “These grass-roots efforts are going to really save lives.”
The program is a joint effort of the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and local cab companies.
“The is the fifth time I have offered this service and, each time, more and more people take advantage of the program,” Walsh said in a news release. “I want to offer a safe alternative for people who go out and drink alcohol. A fun night out should not end in tragedy.”
Patricia Powell, an Ellet High School junior, was killed March 27, 2016, when her disabled car parked on Interstate 76 was struck by Charles Queer.
Queer had a blood-alcohol level of 0.204 percent, more than twice Ohio’s legal driving limit of 0.08 percent.
Queer, 63, of Tallmadge, was sentenced to three years in prison in August 2017 after pleading no contest and being convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide and operating a vehicle while under the influence. His license also was suspended for life.
Queer had never before been convicted of drunk driving.
Grady points to this as an example of how just driving impaired one time can have tragic consequences. She also thinks people need to dispel the idea that because they drove drunk in the past, they can do so again without consequences.
Patricia’s family has a memorial page on Facebook that they use to remember her and also to promote efforts to curb drunken driving. They also have established a scholarship in Patricia’s honor at Ellet High School.
Bernadette Grady, another of Grady’s nieces, has spoken at Prom Promise events at schools in the Akron area, sharing Patricia’s story as a warning of the dangers of driving impaired.
“It is 100 percent preventable,” Kate Grady said.
Michael Gershe, whose mother was killed by a drunken driver when he was an infant, also spoke at Walsh’s news conference. Gershe has a website — www.themagicoflife.com — which he uses to tell his story and how he’s working to keep drunken drivers off the road.
Arrive Alive has so far provided nearly 200 rides. The program was launched during the Fourth of July weekend last year and also was offered during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
This weekend, free cab rides of up to $65 to anywhere in Summit County will be offered from 6 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Monday. Those interested can call 330-475-7888.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.