ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Richard Woodward was driving home with his twin great-grandsons strapped in car seats when a driver high on methamphetamines slammed into the back of his car.
“He hit us from behind going 70 (mph), and I was sitting still,” said Woodward, 55. The collision killed one of the 18-month-old boys and left the other with lasting physical and emotional scars.
Today, Woodward tells his story to anyone who will listen and hopes for a day when impaired drivers no longer kill and maim innocents on the roads.
Woodward cheered an announcement Thursday by Gov. Susana Martinez that alcohol-related traffic deaths in New Mexico showed a one-year decline of 14 percent in 2013, when 133 people were killed by drunken drivers.
The 2013 figure marks a 10-year decline of 38 percent since 2003, when 214 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic accident.
Fatalities in all motor vehicle crashes showed a one-year decline of 16 percent, from 367 in 2012 to 310 in 2013.
Woodward, who speaks to convicted drunken drivers on impact panels, said he takes some comfort in the steady decline in drunken-driving fatalities.
“Impaired driving, whether through alcohol or drugs, has always been an issue in our state, and I’m glad that New Mexico seems to be headed in the right direction,” he said.
Woodward described the family’s ordeal at Isleta Amphitheater, where Martinez announced the new data.
“It has left us pretty scarred,” he said of the May 25, 2010, accident that killed his great-grandson, Brandon Lucero. “It was just a horrible tragedy for the whole family.” Brandon’s twin brother, Ryan Lucero, will probably experience lifelong pain from an injured right leg.
Woodward himself experiences symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and feels panicked when separated from his surviving great-grandson. Physical injuries left him with limited use of his right arm and some memory problems.
“Part of my healing process is talking about my story and about Brandon and keeping him alive,” he said. “It’s strange how things work.”
Ramon Rascon, the driver who struck Woodward’s car, was found guilty by a Bernalillo County jury in 2011 of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and other charges. Today, he is serving a 12-year prison sentence.
Martinez on Thursday attributed the recent decline in drunken-driving fatalities to tougher DWI penalties, aggressive programs by law enforcement agencies and better awareness by the public.
“We won’t stop and we will not back off,” Martinez said. “We have to continue to work to bring those fatalities to zero.”
Martinez also recently signed legislation prohibiting drivers from sending or reading text messages and emails, or doing Internet searches from smartphones.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.