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"I've had to relearn how to walk" - DUI crash victim urges drivers to not drink and drive

Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-26 18:12:32-05
  • According to statistics, downtown Tallahassee has a higher concentration of DUI incidents than other parts of the city.
  • One victim in Tallahassee shares her experience after being hit by a drunk driver years ago.
  • Watch the video to hear her story.


Cranking up your car is a mundane task many of us don't even second guess doing every day. But some people's decision to get behind the wheel can be deadly.

"What I want people to understand is that drinking and driving isn't an innocent mistake."

I'm Shamarria Morrison your Downtown Tallahassee Neighborhood Reporter

It's the time of the year both nationally and statewide where we saw some of the highest numbers of drunk driving crashes and arrests.

Each of those crashes have a face and for some survivors a story.

When Tess Rowland visits Downtown Tallahassee it's usually to talk to lawmakers about the moment her life changed.

"I was headed into work as a television news reporter, and I was hit head on by a wrong way drunk driver."

Here's a look at Tess as a 20 something year old reporting at her first new job at the ABC affiliate in Panama City.

"Since then I've had seven surgeries I've had to relearn how to walk, how to use my right arm.

I searched the Tallahassee Police Department's Online Police Statistics site for where and when Tallahassee neighborhoods have seen DUIs.

Here's a map.

It shows a higher percentage of 2022 DUI's where concentrated in the Downtown area.

At least three of those in January.

"Don't make the choice to drink and drive. It's the holiday season. So, we want to ensure that everybody gets home safely. And there are no empty seats at tables from a 100% preventable crime of drunk driving."

During the days before, on and after News Years Day Florida Highway Patrol and local law enforcement increase patrols to prevent drunk driving.

"We need people to make a plan, know how you're getting home designated driver or use a ride share service."

The man who hit Tess is serving three years in a Northwest Florida prison.

Tess has taken her story into action.

"I represent nearly a million victims and survivors that MADD has been fortunate to help within our 40-year history."

She is the youngest national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"It isn't an accident, it's a choice. It is a choice. And it is a crime that comes with often irreversible, potentially fatal consequences."

Penalties for a DUI vary depending on a number of factors, but it can range from a first-time offense of a $500 fine to 15 years in prison if someone is killed.