Struck twice by drunk drivers, an Idaho family pleads for DUIs to end

Here’s a statistic that’s absolutely inexcusable – more than half of North Idaho’s deadly car crashes are due to driving under the influence, according to Coeur d’Alene Police. Now, officers will be ramping up DUI emphasis patrols Friday to help cut that number down.

The Allen family has faced this grim statistic personally, and have experienced that pain not once, but twice.

When their son, Ryan, was just a child, they were hit by a drunk driver. Ryan was left with life-altering injuries, but he survived.

On March 9 of this year, the family was struck again; but this time, Ryan was killed.

His story wasn’t easy for them to tell – it was painful, excruciating, heart-wrenching – but they did it for their boy, Ryan. His death was preventable, and they want everyone to understand that.

It’s been said that a person dies twice – the first when you’re buried, the second when your name is mentioned for the last time.

Ryan Allen’s family already watched him die once, and they will never let it happen a second time.

“He is a part of our life – it’s like a leg that is missing,” said Patricia, Ryan’s mother, “We don’t want that leg to ever go away, even though it is.”

When he was just a kid, a drunk driver changed his life forever.

“Ryan was injured when he was eleven years old by an impaired driver. That put him in a wheelchair with a traumatic brain injury, with the use of only one arm,” said Patricia, “After three months in a coma, he was back with us, but with a severe disability.”

His family says they were just grateful that God gave him another chance at life, and his love radiated every day.

“Didn’t matter if you were red, yellow, blue, green, black or what,” said his father, Vern Allen, “He loved everybody.”

But on March 9, his family had to relive the trauma.

“We were going home on 95 and another drunk driver hit us. And this time, it took Ryan,” said Patricia, “And it’s hard to keep telling this story. But, it’s necessary in order to make a difference.”

His brother, Troy, found him in the street that day.

“Ripped him out of his seated wheelchair, and then ejected him about 20 feet away from the van,” Troy recalled.

Ryan’s family says he didn’t have to die like this. His death, they believe, could have been stopped.

“A lot of people don’t realize, that it only takes a couple of drinks in one hour and you’re impaired,” said Troy.

Eight months have passed since they lost Ryan – the family is a stark portrait of the consequences of drinking and driving.

“But that hole in your heart is going to take a lot of time,” said Patricia.

She wears a locket with his picture around her neck, serving as a reminder – they have an angel with them, always.

Around the nation, we average 36 deaths per day due to impaired driving. As Christmas approaches, that number climbs to 45 a day. On New Year’s, that haunting statistic reaches its peak – 54 lives lost daily, all because of driving under the influence.

The North Idaho Task Force held a conference on Monday, addressing the need for DUI emphasis patrols. They said the biggest message they could get across was that these DUI crashes are entirely preventable – Ryan’s death was entirely preventable.

If you’ve taken any substance, whether it’s alcohol or marijuana, don’t drive.

Call a cab, call an Uber – it’s your choice to make the right one. And if you see someone who might make the wrong one, help them out, take their keys, save their life.

Ryan would have done the same thing.