New TxDOT campaign puts a human face on effects of drunk driving

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on July 1, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 1 at 5:22 PM

FORT WORTH -- Not a day goes by that nine-year-old Chilli Vasquez says she doesn't pray to walk again.

"I can no longer play games that I used to with my brother, Isaah," Chilli said, from her wheelchair. "People always stare at me -- especially little kids. I also pray and believe that I will walk again."

On July 9, 2011, Chilli was coming home from getting a hair cut, when the car she was in was hit by a drunk driver. It happened at the corner of 28th Street and Sylvania in Fort Worth at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Chilli was just three days shy of her eighth birthday.

Jeremy Soliz got 10 years in prison after admitting he was driving drunk. Chilli got life in a wheelchair.

She, and others, are the "Faces of Drunk Driving," a Texas Department of Transportation campaign that shows the real-life impact of driving while intoxicated.

Last year, there were more than 25,000 alcohol-related crashes on Texas roadways. Independence Day ranks among the deadliest days on the calendar, with 133 alcohol-related crashes.

What Chilli's face and wheelchair don't say, her words do.

"It's bad, because people get hurt and their lives change," Chilli said. "Please don't drink and drive, ever."

Texas will once again conduct "no refusal" weekends during the July 4th holiday, which requires suspected drunk drivers to provide breath or blood samples.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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