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Parents of drunk driving victim urge caution in drinking, driving

By Geoff Liesik | Posted - Dec 31st, 2012 @ 7:26pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Holiday cheer can change in an instant with one wrong driving decision.

Keeping folks safe tonight is the goal and a lot of groups are working together to pull it off.

The Utah Highway Patrol is conducting a DUI blitz. Meanwhile, over at Yellow Cab in Salt Lake City, cabs stand ready to get people to and from their New Year's Eve celebrations in safety.

"We have 161 drivers working tonight and we have extra staff for our dispatch support. We are ready," said Yellow Cab general manager Sam Raafati.

Dave Morris is also getting ready for his customers at Piper Down, the pub he owns in Salt Lake City.

"I have a designated driver that shows up," Morris said. "It's a team of two. They'll drive you and your car to your house. I pay 'em, it's free, tip 'em. If you're a regular, they'll remember you. They're awesome."

AAA of Utah is also offering its Tipsy Tow program for those who shouldn't be behind the wheel tonight.

It's all part of a concerted effort to avoid the devastating impact that drinking and driving has on families like the Strebels of South Jordan.

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"He was our baby, our very last," said Tim Strebel, referring to his son, Blake.

"I think that was more difficult too, because he was a lot younger than the other children and he kept us young," Susan Strebel added.

Blake Strebel, 19, was just a few credits shy of earning his bachelor's degree from Weber State University when he and his friend, 18-year-old Derek Jasper, were killed on April 22, 2009, by a drunk driver who was running from police.

"Knowing that someone was impaired means that it could have been prevented," Tim Strebel said. "It didn't have to happen. Our son's death didn't have to happen."

Mark A. Mora was 17 years old when he killed Strebel and Jasper. Weber County prosecutors charged him as an adult and he pleaded guilty to automobile homicide and failure to stop for police, both second-degree felonies. A judge sentenced him to serve two consecutive terms of up to 15 years in prison.

The Strebels say they've forgiven Mora, and they're not opposed to people celebrating the New Year with a drink. They just want them to exercise good judgment so that another family won't have to experience the anguish and loss they have.

"We realize we're not the only ones who have suffered, but it doesn't mean that other have to suffer like we do," Susan Strebel said. "It can end. People have a choice."

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Geoff Liesik

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