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Feb 18, 2010 12:06 AM by James Jarman

Victim of suspected drunk driving soldier speaks out

In 5 days there've been 3 bad accidents in the Pikes Peak region that authorities believe could've been stopped if the drivers hadn't been drinking alcohol.

The worst happened Saturday morning on Highway 115.  It killed 2 Fort Carson soldiers. A 3rd soldier, who police suspect was driving drunk, is in critical condition.

The 3 were in a car that was in the wrong lane and hit a truck head on. Jim Clift of Canon City was driving the truck.  He's badly hurt, which includes puncture wounds in his leg and torn tendons in his wrist, but he points out he's lucky to be alive.

He's afraid to drive now and says when he closes his eyes he sees headlights coming at him.  "It hurts me, it bugs me... I don't know what I'm gonna do," he said.

He isn't sure if he'll be able to work again.  "I work in the traffic control industry I set up cone zones, I've been doing it for the last 20 years around Colorado Springs - setting up cone zones to try to keep people safe on the roadways and I don't know if I'm going to be able to do it again," he said with tears in his eyes, "I don't know if I can step out and do it."

For those in the fight against drunk driving, the recent wrecks are more sad news for a Colroado Springs, which was ranked as the third most dangerously drunk city in America by Men's Health magazine.

"It hit me very hard, I still feel very sad about it," said Nonie Rispin of the 3 recent drunk driving accidents. She started the non-profit Designated Driver of Colorado Springs, which gives free rides to drunk drivers and drives their car home. 

It's a group she started after a drunk driver killed a family member. "The driver took out her, her dog, himself and his passenger," she said of the accident that happened 2 years ago, "so I have a real personal interest in what we're doing."

Her group's a benefit to the community says Maile Gray, of Drive Smart Colorado Springs.  Drive Smart works with law enforcement and other agencies to try to stop drunk drivers.

"We are working very very hard in this community with the Pikes Peak Region DUI Task Force and members of Drive Smart to eradicate drunk driving on our streets, but it really comes down to individual responsibility, said Gray, who's seen too many innocent victims of drunk drivers.

Victims like Clift, who's life could be changed forever because of someone else's bad decision. "You can ruin somebody's life with it (drunk driving)" Clift said, "people need to slow down and think about what they're doing before they do it."

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Other groups that can help provide information and help to those with alcohol problems:

Colorado Springs Alcoholics Anonymous

El Paso County Detox Center

MADD

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