Two out of three.
That’s how many people will be affected by drunk driving in their lifetime, according to statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving NY.
Margarita Jimenez of Riverhead, 30, is one of those people. On July 25, 2015, at the intersection of Doctor’s Path and Northville Turnpike, she was critically injured when she was ejected from the passenger seat of a car operated by a driver who had allegedly been drinking.
The car hit a telephone pole, and the force of the collision snapped it in half. The driver and two other passengers weren’t seriously injured, and fled the scene.
Ms. Jimenez was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital with broken spinal and cervical vertebrae, the latter of which was shattered, and three broken ribs. She’s undergone three spinal surgeries since the crash, she said.
“I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover, honestly,” she said last Thursday. “I live a life now that is different. I have gotten used to pain because I have pain all the time.”
Each year, around the anniversary of the crash, Ms. Jimenez has used her traumatic experience as motivation to remind others of the dangers of drunk driving and raise money for MADD.
In fact, she and her family held three fundraisers last month to benefit the nonprofit. On July 20, as a heat advisory swept over Riverhead, Ms. Jimenez set up a donation table at the Riverhead Car Wash on Route 58. Her children — Raniya, 11; Jasiah, 8; and Vivianna, 7 — pitched in as well, selling cups of lemonade for $1 each.
Last Thursday, Ms. Jimenez and family members gathered again near the Route 58 traffic circle for her third annual hot dog fundraiser. With a grill running from 3:30 to 9 p.m. in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, family members, including Ms. Jimenez’s mother-in-law, Diane Ferbee of Riverhead, waved signs asking motorists to honk for their cause.
Ms. Ferbee said she attended that event for the first time in an effort to get drunk drivers off the road.
“I’m just here fighting for every mother, every father, for their kids to be safe,” she said. “I don’t want to see anybody get hurt by a drunk driver, and nine times out of 10, most of them walk away from it and don’t get caught.”
On Sunday morning, the group continued their fundraising with a car wash at the Riverhead Applebee’s. Each year, Ms. Jimenez said, she aims to raise more money than the year before. Last year she raised $220; this year, her efforts generated $375 for MADD.
“That [accident] definitely changed my life,” she said. “I am super limited now, but I know I’m also super blessed. Like, I was so close to being much worse for the rest of my life and I have to remind myself of that all the time … It’s a win and a loss, but you have to live with it.”
Caption: Ms. Jimenez and supporters during last week’s rally to bring attention to the issue of drunken driving. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)