DUI victim’s memory kept alive through emphasis patrols

SILVERDALE — It’s been a few years since 20-year-old Heather Meadows died, but the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and local police agencies want to make sure she’s never forgotten.

The Drive Hammered, Get Nailed extra enforcement patrols throughout the state will go through Sept. 1. Police agencies across the state are dedicating a night of heightened patrols to local DUI victims and their families.

“Instead of saying it’s another Drive Hammered, Get Nailed, we decided to dedicate it to someone in the area,” said Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force Coordinator Carolyn Pence.

Kitsap County police agencies, including the Bremerton and Poulsbo police departments, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol, will dedicate their Drive Hammered, Get Nailed patrol to Meadows.

Meadows, a 2003 Central Kitsap High School grad, was hit and killed by a drunk driver in 2005 while traveling southbound on I-5 on her way home to Silverdale. The intoxicated driver, Ngere Omari, 32, of Seattle, made a U-turn on the freeway and reportedly crossed five lanes of traffic, hitting Meadows’ Chevrolet Cavalier head-on. She died at the scene while her 20-year-old male passenger, Eric Gray, was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with lacerations to his spleen, liver and kidneys as well as a broken jaw.

The Washington State Toxicology Lab found Omari’s blood alcohol content was .18, more than twice the legal limit.

Pence said when Kitsap County police agencies stop suspected impaired drivers, they will distribute flyers about Meadows.

“To make that impact, to make people realize that we’re not just out there doing patrols. This was someone’s daughter, someone’s family member,” Pence said.

Marsha Masters, president of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kitsap County Chapter, said she also hopes Meadows’ story will make people think harder about the choices they make.

“I would hope that it just makes people think, that an innocent life was taken,” Masters said. “I’m just hoping it makes an emotional impact.”

In Washington state, driver impairment is the No. 1 contributing factor to traffic deaths. Traffic crashes killed 568 people on Washington’s roads in 2007 and those involving impaired drivers accounted for 46 percent of the total deaths.

“Drunk or drugged driving remains the leading cause of death in traffic crashes. These preventable crashes can be eliminated if everyone works to become part of the solution,” Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director Lowell Porter said. “As one who has knocked on doors at 3 a.m. to deliver the worst news possible to a loved one, I strongly urge all Washington drivers to help make 2008 a safer year than we had during 2007.”

Omari was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for the death of Meadows. He pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and second-degree driving while license is suspended/revoked.

Pence said there is “a greater concentration of driving impaired instances over the summer,” so the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed campaign typically takes place during the summer months.

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