Central Texas law enforcement honored for DWI enforcement efforts

According to TxDOT, about every 20 minutes in Texas somebody is either hurt or killed in a crash involving alcohol. It's a sobering thought that will always be on Azeza Salama's mind.

"I remember changing the radio station and looking at my honey, because he wanted to listen to Rock N' Roll, and he wanted to listen to country. I moved real fast to change the radio station and I looked at him and then all I saw was bright lights coming at us," said Salama, who now works for M.A.D.D.

In February 2016, she was in the car headed home with her fiancee' Johnny, and two children, when a drunk driver hit them head on. Everyone survived, except for Johnny. "The impact of the vehicle was coming directly toward me and my 8-month-old child at the time. Luckily he maneuvered the vehicle and took the brunt of the impact," said Salama.

Salama suffered broken ribs, nerve damage and hematoma. Her 8-month-old bit her tongue so hard she almost lost it...and her 11-year-old spent 6-weeks in the I.C.U. "We found bleeding in her brain, swelling in her brain, she was having seizures, dislocated hip, broken arm and broken wrist," she said.

She repurposed her grief and trauma, and started working with mothers against drunk driving. She was one of many at M.A.D.D.'s law enforcement recognition ceremony.

"We are here to remember the lives that have been lost to this senseless crime, but also to recognize really great work being done by law enforcement and other professionals around the Travis County area," said Chief Brian Manley of the Austin Police Department.

Chief Manley said every community deals with this issue, but Austin has a somewhat unique challenge.

"I think when you have a large student population, we are home to several large universities, we've got a very vibrant entertainment district, active nightlife, all of that is a good thing for a community as long as people again, conduct themselves responsibly," he said.

Several officers, some having more than 100 DWI arrests last year were honored for going above and beyond. Also, those who work in the labs, testing blood alcohol levels, and working behind the scenes were recognized. Drunk driving may not be eradicated, but police feel if there is one less dangerous driver on the road, we can prevent stories like Azeza's from happening so frequently.

"We have to hold each other accountable. If you have a neighbor who has a tendency of drinking and driving then bring it to their attention, hold them accountable. Who knows that could be you they are hitting, or your son or daughter," said Salama. 

For more information about M.A.D.D. and to learn how to become a volunteer, click here.