WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Seniors at Williamsville East walk into school on a cloudy Wednesday, expecting it to be like any other day. They know they have an assembly. They don’t know the topic until they sit down in the lower bowl of the two-tiered auditorium.
And then the Sheriff and District Attorney walk in, too.
The seniors begin hearing about the impacts of drinking and driving. A deputy and an assistant district attorney rattle off legal information – facts including 30% of all cases prosecuted in Erie County are for DWIs; there’s an increase in teens driving while impaired by drugs; having a DWI conviction at 17 can impact college admissions and jobs.
And then the videos start playing. A woman, 24, sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing an infant in a crash caused while she was drinking and driving. A high school senior, a passenger in a car crash where the driver was high, in a nursing home recovering from a traumatic brain injury. The seniors’ mouths drop. They can’t take their eyes off of the screen where these videos are playing.
Then Bronte Williams takes the microphone. With shaking hands, she starts to tell the students about the day her life changed.
“I got that call that every parent never wants to get,” said Bronte Williams, recalling the night of June 23, 2014 when her phone started ringing at 4a.m.; the police were on the other line telling her her son Jerih, 21, had been involved in a crash.
She rushed to the hospital only to hear that he didn’t survive.
“It was a nightmare.”
Over the next few days, Williams started learning details about what happened that night. Jerih went out downtown with some friends. They had been drinking and then one of his friends decided to drive home. During the ride home, someone challenged the driver to a street race. The car sped down Elm Street, reaching speeds higher than 100mph before the driver lost control, hitting a tree. And Jerih never made it home from his night out with his friends.
“One decision and Jerih is gone. One bad decision and his life was taken.”
The driver’s blood alcohol content level was over the legal limit. He was arrested and prosecuted.
Williams travels to schools around the area sharing Jerih’s story, smiling when talking about her son who was an athlete, an uncle; described as a sweetheart.
“I try to paint the picture with where they’ll see Jireh as one of themselves and see it can happen to you,” said Williams.
Williams says she’s hopeful that hearing his story will help some students decide not to drink and drive.
“If I can save one young person from dying, from being killed, I have to try.”