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Lynn Mickelson, Published October 13 2012

Letter: Father of crash victim agrees: Change needed

Allison Deutscher, her husband, Aaron, 18-month-old daughter Brielle and an unborn baby were killed in a senseless head-on collision west of Jamestown, N.D., July 6 by a drunken driver going the wrong way on Interstate 94. The loss of this vibrant young West Fargo family has torn apart our hearts – along with those of the Deutscher family in Bismarck – like you cannot imagine. The hurt and emptiness are beyond description. Making plans for an appropriate headstone in the graveyard was torture.

Ever since the tragedy, I’ve kept saying, and have heard from others, that things just have to change. When will things change?

After reading Rep. Kim Koppelman’s, R-West Fargo, article on The Forum’s Sept. 25 opinion page, I concluded that I could not agree more. We all know that tougher laws alone will not cure the problem. It may help, but there is more to it than that. It is socially acceptable to drink and drive in North Dakota. Chances of getting caught are slim. This needs to change.

Society and culture have to come to the realization that this way of thinking is unacceptable. People with multiple DUIs need to face changes. Our local poster child for drunken drivers with 14 DUIs on his record should not be behind the wheel. How did he get to 14?

Our friends in Manitoba don’t have much of a DUI problem. Why? Because they got the message. We speak the same language and share similar culture. Do you think we can get the same message? I think so. We need to.

Changing thinking and culture won’t happen overnight. But it can happen and must happen. I have spoken to people from all parts of the state and hear the same message. This mentality cannot continue. People from all walks of life have said our culture of driving drunk is so socially acceptable that it is an outrage.

A comment I have heard these past three months is, “My family just drove that same stretch of road; that could have been my family.” Think about the number of times you or someone in your family has driven on a stretch of road. Did the driver of the car you just met have three too many drinks or was he one who had 4, 8, 12 or maybe even 14 DUIs? We need to change the picture.

This senseless tragedy has shaken the entire state. The law enforcement community was jolted. Our community has been shocked and saddened. Many still express disbelief that this beautiful young family is gone. Their co-workers, former co-workers and fellow softball players have only great memories now. Several of Allison’s former clients expressed sadness; they will miss working with this smiling and energetic young lady who seemed to go the “extra mile” to get things just right. Allison’s beautiful flower garden outside of their West Fargo home will no longer brighten up the neighborhood.

Again, the message is: It’s time for a major culture change. I have no political or government ties. I write as a hurt father, father-in-law and grandfather. I hope and pray that Koppelman will lead a successful charge when the Legislature convenes in January. I hope that if change comes from this effort, we could call it “Brielle’s Law.”

Mickelson, rural Colfax, N.D., is father of Allison Deutscher.