'Moving Memorial' on way to Somerset, drives home dangers of DUI

Paul Peirce
| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Somerset Borough Police Chief Randy Cox believes the state's mobile memorial will offer people in the region an important lesson by showing the potential impact of driving impaired.

The Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Association will open the “Moving Memorial” for public viewing in Somerset from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday at Somerset Hospital.

The moving memorial is housed in a 30-foot trailer. The interior is painted with a garden scene and features a 25-foot wall painted with the names of DUI crash victims who have been honored in the association's Memorial Garden in Harrisburg.

“We plan on having a contingent of our uniformed officers there to pay their respects,” Cox said. “We're pleased it's coming here... not only for the educational benefit but allowing local residents the experience of seeing (DUI's) impact.”

In 2012, the number of alcohol-related crashes statewide increased to 11,956, 151 more than in 2011, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Although alcohol-related deaths from crashes dropped statewide from 428 to 404 in 2012, in Somerset County the numbers increased from one to seven fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The number of traffic deaths that year increased from 12 to 18 in Westmoreland County, according to the NHTSA. The number dropped from 14 to six in Fayette and from 22 to 18 in Allegheny County. In Indiana County, the number remained at four.

C. Stephen Erni, executive director of the PA DUI Association, said the interior of the trailer replicates an outdoor setting in tribute to the original, permanent DUI Victims' Memorial Garden located in front of the association's headquarters in Harrisburg.

The names on the wall in the mobile memorial are engraved in bricks in the permanent garden that overlooks the Susquehanna River.

Erni noted that as its name implies, the moving and permanent memorial gardens honor and remember “DUI victims who are needless killed every year from the actions of impaired drivers.”

The visual memorial will be in the Wheeler parking lot of Somerset Hospital from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Officials from the Somerset County Drug Free Community will invite attendees to hang an angel on a special tree. Plans are to plant the tree as a local, permanent memorial sometime next spring at the Somerset County Technology Center.

Other locations where the memorial will be on display are:

Allegheny County — 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Ross Township Community Center;

Warren County — 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday, Youngsville High School;

Clearfield County — 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Clearfield Area High School.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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