Jennifer Kilburn didn’t know her life would change forever when she got up to go to work on the morning of Aug. 9 last year.
Shortly after leaving her home, she was hit by a drunken driver who allegedly ran a red light. She had to be flown to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa by helicopter and doesn’t even remember the crash.
She had a total of five surgeries in 12 days, spent 15 days in the hospital and three months in a wheelchair. Her pelvis was shattered, diaphragm ruptured and lungs shattered.
She only recently returned to work, with a cane occasionally helping her walk. However, she considers herself one of the lucky ones because she’s still alive to tell her story.
“It changed my life forever,” she said.
Kilburn presented her story at the kick-off event for the “Don’t Drive Then Drink” campaign Thursday night at the Kemper Center in Kenosha.
The campaign is being organized by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition, Leadership Kenosha and Hope Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse as a way to get people to think about getting home after drinking before they even get into a car. An average of one person is killed or injured in an alcohol-related crash every 2.9 hours on Wisconsin roadways, according to KCSAC.
This number is far too high for Guida Brown, executive director of Hope Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse in Kenosha.
“We want people to make the decision before they even get the chance to drink because alcohol and other drugs turn off the good reasoning portion of their brains,” said Brown.
The campaign is a take on the popular slogan “don’t drink and drive.” These three Kenosha organizations are making it their goal to get people to ditch their cars completely before going to the bar or the game.
They are doing this by encouraging people to sign an online pledge. They are also starting a social media campaign to spread the word and handing out window clings for cars, and posters and coasters for bars and restaurants.
Although the main push of the campaign will finish around the end of May, Brown said they will still have materials to share with the community after. Part of the campaign is being paid for by a $700 grant the organizations received from the state.
Members of the campaign are encouraging people to consider public transportation, Lyft or Uber or other forms of transportation before going out to drink. Overall, they want people to “Ditch your car before the bar.”
Brown is hopeful that through social media, the campaign can spread across the country.
“I’d love for it to get to other places than just Kenosha,” said Brown
Sabrina Morgan of Leadership Kenosha is excited for the campaign to begin as well.
“Even if we can change one person’s thought process, it will be beneficial and impactful,” she said. “We know we’re not going to reach everyone… there’s a big problem in the state with driving while impaired but we want people to think.”
By the numbers
Although stats can be hard to find on the subject, 2013 numbers from the Department of Transportation found that 8 alcohol-related crash deaths and 97 injuries occurred in 2013 across Kenosha County. 2015 numbers also showed that 28,970 people were arrested for Operating While Intoxicated across the state.
As for Jennifer Kilburn, she only recently returned back to work at Aurora Hospital, where she is a nurse. She’s also working with State Rep. Samantha Kerkman to draft laws that will make it harder for offenders to get behind the wheel after they have been arrested for drinking and driving. The person who hit Kilburn’s car had been arrested just hours before for an OWI.
“Anytime I can share the story, I do, just to make people more aware of drunk driving and what it can do to people and the effects,” said Kilburn.