Joel Martin is a man who drove a vehicle while under the influence but managed to survive.
As the holiday celebrations begin and people gather to enjoy holiday parties, it’s a period when people get into crashes after consuming too much alcohol, and Martin has a warning for everyone.
“Whenever someone asks me why I lost my leg, I’m very upfront about that. I lost my leg because I was drinking and driving. So don’t make the same mistakes I have,” he said.
This is also the time of year when law enforcement all over the United States takes extra steps to look for impaired drivers and get them off the road before it’s too late.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, on average 36 people die each day in the U.S. because of drunk driving. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the number increases with the average daily DUI fatality number of around 45 people.
That’s why Camden County deputy Joseph Sheets said it’s a job he and fellow law enforcement officers across the U.S. must take seriously to prevent roadway fatalities.
“It is super frustrating because we arrive at so many accidents where you see small children killed, younger people killed, just because people chose to drink and drive,” Sheets said.
Sheets said every law enforcement officer’s worst nightmare is knocking on someone’s door to inform that person that their loved one was killed in a DUI crash.
“That is a very surreal feeling when you have to go to a house and notify parents that their baby has died due to someone’s disrespect for other people’s lives by getting on the road and drinking,” Sheets said.
In Martin’s case, not everyone involved in a DUI crash dies.
Martin was driving on Interstate 10 in 2017 when he lost control of his truck and crashed because he was so intoxicated.
“I was then rolled down the embankment on I-10. And because I did not wear my seatbelt, I was thrown a half-football field-length into a group of trees,” Martin said.
The lower portion of his leg was badly injured in the crash. Then it got infected.
“I was a below-the-knee amputee for a year and ended up becoming an above-the-knee amputee shortly after that because of another round of infections I dealt with,” Martin said.
Both Martin and Sheets are pleading with people to do the right thing this holiday season to avoid a preventable tragedy.
“Regardless of whether you have been drinking, using drugs, or smoking weed; it’s going to impair your ability to drive. Ultimately, if you decide to do those things, do the wise thing, and don’t get behind the wheel,” Martin said.
AAA is offering free tow-to-go services for people who have had too much to drink this Thanksgiving weekend. Also, Uber is offering discounted services as a part of a Drive Sober initiative during the holiday season.