Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘I don’t ever want anybody to be in that place’: DUI victim, offender speak at impact panel

In hopes of presenting the impact driving under the influence can have, the Wichita State University Police Department hosted the DUI Victims Center of Kansas. The event showcased the stories of Kansans affected by driving under the influence.

The DUI Victims Center of Kansas operates out of Wichita. The Oct. 10 panel featured three guest speakers: Heather Plaza, executive director of the DUI Victims Center, Cheyenne Waller, DUI Victims Center’s engagement director, and Bob Recchio, a survivor of a DUI accident.

Plaza began by discussing the numbers and statistics behind drunk driving crashes in 2021, including accident statistics and the costs of paying for the property damage caused by crashes. 

“(In 2021), 2,158 impaired driving crashes happened in Kansas … so this number is significant,” Plaza said. “I mean, we’re talking about just with the crash, people having to go through major, major challenges, and then we start to look at some of these numbers: 856 Kansans were injured in drunk driving crashes (in 2021).” 

Plaza also said that out of those 2,158 crashes, there were 77 fatalities in 2021, with many happening locally. 

On a nationwide scale, Sedgwick County has a leading spot in the number of fatalities involving drivers under the influence, according to data from the DUI Victims Center of Kansas.

Part of Plaza’s presentation also offered tips on how students can take the initiative to stay safe and take care of each other in potential DUI situations. Strategies include designating a driver, utilizing the buddy system, ridesharing, sleeping over at someone’s house to avoid driving drunk, and using your resources to get help if you have a substance issue. 

Waller shared her experience of being involved in a DUI accident.

“Once I realized I was in the hospital, I knew something had happened, something bad,” Waller said. “And so I asked what happened, and they told me I hit someone, and in that moment, it’s like someone punched me, (I) couldn’t breathe.”

Waller vowed to change for the better after hearing what had happened. 

“Life keeps going after a mistake has been made. I learned very quickly. It doesn’t stop for anything,” Waller said. “Once I came to terms with the fact that I almost took the father of three little girls, I knew the only thing I could do, the only thing that I had control over in that moment, was myself, my decisions and what I did moving forward.”

In Kansas, a DUI is classified as a felony. Waller shared how a felony charge can also impact getting a job.

The panel also offered the opportunity to hear the story of a victim, Recchio, who survived being hit by a drunk driver. Recchio lost his wife Yvonne in that same crash that changed his life forever. 

“I don’t ever want anybody to be in that place because it was, it still is, awful when I talk about it and when I think about it … and it’s also preventable,” Recchio said. 

Despite the costs of using some rideshare services, Recchio urges individuals to make the splurge.

“When you do that (ridesharing), not only do you potentially save yourself … but it saved that other person, that other family from that anguish,” he said.

The DUI Victims Center provides resources for those in need. 

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the SAMHSA National Healthline at ​​1-800-662-4357. If you or someone is in an emergency, dial 911.

If you wish to support the victims of DUIs through the DUI Victims Center of Kansas, you can do so using their website or by calling their number at 316-768-2096.

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Shelby DuVall
Shelby DuVall, Reporter
Shelby DuVall is a sophomore reporter, designer and photographer majoring in graphic design. This is her first year on the Sunflower staff, and at WSU. She's from Altamont, Kansas, and enjoys rollerskating and gaming. DuVall's pronouns are she/her.

Comments (0)

All The Sunflower Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *