York officials warn against holiday drinking and driving

David Weissman
  • There were 34 alcohol-related crashes and two fatalities in York County during Dec. 2015.

On the day her son would have turned 30, Rhonda Grove fought back tears to tell the story of how a drunk-driving crash took her son's life nine years ago.

Rhonda Grove, of West Manchester Township, speaks about the drunk driving crash that killed her then 21-year-old son, Trent (pictured on right), nine years earlier. (Photo by David Weissman/ The York Dispatch)

Grove's 21-year-old son, Trent Grove, was home on leave from Dover Air Force Base and out celebrating with friends on New Year's Eve 2007, she said. One of those friends had agreed to serve as the designated driver but broke that promise and ended up driving impaired and getting into a crash that killed Trent  and one other passenger.

"The pain of losing a child is unimaginable," Rhonda Grove said during a Friday news conference on the steps of the York County Administrative Center. "The pain of losing a son to a completely preventable action is unacceptable."

Grove, of West Manchester Township, was joined by representatives from the state Department of Transportation, the York County Commissioner's Office, York County District Attorney's Office and York Area Regional Police Department for the news conference on Operation Safe Holiday.

Many speakers touched on the fact that drunk driving is a choice and how that choice has killed thousands of Pennsylvania residents.  Those victims' names could be seen inside the PA DUI Association's Moving DUI Victims Memorial truck parked in front of the building where they spoke.

The PA DUI Association's DUI Victim's Moving Memorial, parked in York County on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, displays the names of thousands of state residents killed in alcohol-related crashes. (Photo by David Weissman/ The York Dispatch)

Alcohol-related crashes tend to be  particularly prevalent in December because of holiday parties, officials said.

There were 34 alcohol-related crashes  — two of which resulted in fatalities — in York County last December  according to PennDOT data.

PennDOT spokeswoman Fritzi Schreffler urged residents to make safe choices during the holiday season, making sure to designate a responsible designated driver or call a taxi service, even after only one drink.

Assistant District Attorney Timothy Barker decried the DUI laws in Pennsylvania, pointing out that it's one of the only states in the country without felony DUI laws, limiting the amount of time judges can place repeat offenders in jail.

Grove said the man whose decision killed her son is to be be released from jail in April.

Schreffler said driving drunk isn't the only bad decision people can make on the road, listing driving while on drugs, driving without wearing a seat belt, aggressive driving and distracted driving as other potentially fatal choices.

York Area Regional Police Chief Tim Damon

York Area Regional Police Chief Tim Damon said his department has seen six fatal crashes during the past two years where the deceased driver or passenger might have survived by wearing a seat belt.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.