Memorial Day

Heartbroken family shares story, urges motorists to drive sober on holiday weekend

The Lockwood family's lives were forever changed when Austin, 23, was killed in a drunk driving crash

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Sheila Lockwood can't hold back tears when she talks about her late son Austin, who was killed in a tragic crash in the summer of 2018.

"A drunk driver was driving over 70 miles per hour and slammed into a tree, and took Austin from us," she remembers.

Austin, 23 at the time, was a passenger in the vehicle that crashed in the early morning hours of June 10, 2018 in Oneida County, Wisconsin.

"I got to give him a hug that morning, and tell him goodbye," said Lockwood. "At 5 a.m., I got a knock on the door from two police officers telling me Austin wasn’t coming home."

The man driving the vehicle was found guilty for OWI and Homicide by Intoxicated use of a vehicle. He was sentenced to three years in prison and four years extended supervision.

After her son's death, Sheila Lockwood set out on a mission to change laws around drunk driving.

She's now a national ambassador for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD), and since her son's crash, has worked with lawmakers in Wisconsin to set a mandatory minimum sentence for Homicide by OWI.

She also worked alongside Illinois Rep. Tom Weber on legislation to change the language in numerous state statutes, from “accident” to the word “crash."

She says her proudest accomplishment was advocating for the Halt Act, which directs the federal government to require all new cars come equipped with smart technology that detects and stops impaired driving.

"That’s what we really wanted, is to end impaired driving," said Lockwood.

The Lockwood family will celebrate what would have been Austin's 29th birthday on May 26. The holiday weekend is always a difficult time, both for the family and for those taking to the roads.

According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 500 people were killed by impaired drivers over the holiday weekend in 2022, a 4.6% increase from the same period in 2021.

"We have a higher number of serious injury and fatality crashes during this time frame between Memorial Day and Labor Day," said Sergeant Melissa Albert-Lopez, with the Illinois State Police. "You’re going to see more troopers out there this weekend. You’ll see us out there enforcing all safety laws, but really focusing on impaired driving and people who aren’t wearing seatbelts properly."

The Lockwood family was permanently impacted by one decision to drive impaired, and they hope sharing Austin's story will prevent another tragedy.

"It took everything from us. Every dream we had was gone. Every plan for the future was ripped away from us," said Lockwood.

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