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Emily Welker, Published October 12 2013

Fargo couple: City needs to change attitude toward drunken driving

FARGO - A trip home after a night out in Fargo a week ago made Chris and Shannon Teeman realize it’s time for the region to tackle its drinking and driving problem. Ironically enough, their inspiration came at the hands of a motorist suspected of drunken driving.

“It was much easier to deal with an accident that’s an accident,” Chris Teeman said of the driver who rear-ended the vehicle carrying Teeman, his wife and their two friends early last Sunday morning.

“When an individual is drunk, they’re making a choice,” he said.

Teeman was the designated driver that rainy Saturday night into Sunday. He and his wife make it a regular practice to take turns being the designated driver when they go out.

On this night, the Teemans were sitting in the car with their friends at a stoplight near the intersection of South University Drive and Interstate 94. They were watching for the light to change when a man driving a white van hit them from behind at what is thought to be between 35 and 40 mph.

That’s when, according to Fargo police Sgt. Jason Nelson, another driver southbound on University Drive lost control of his vehicle, which turned sideways and hit Teeman’s vehicle and a second car in the middle lane.

The impact of the crash bounced Teeman’s car onto the two-lane exit ramp of the nearby interstate.

The trunk and the side of Teeman’s car were badly damaged in the crash.

Those in Teeman’s car went to the first vehicle that hit them to see if the people were OK. Only the passenger was there, and she told police her boyfriend was going way too fast. He was nowhere to be found, Chris Teeman said.

The driver of the other car, Travis Nelson, 20, of Barnesville, Minn., reportedly fled on foot from police and was eventually taken into custody on suspicion of drunken driving. Shannon Teeman was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

Chris and Shannon Teeman say the community needs to understand there’s a problem with drinking and driving. Chris Teeman wants more and faster cab service available for those who are out drinking. He also wishes bartenders wouldn’t treat designated drivers as drains on their tip income.

Most of all, he wants to change what he says is an attitude of acceptance toward drinking and driving.

“The passenger was sober – completely sober,” he said. “She needed to step up and say, ‘No, you’re not going to drive.’ ”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541