A 26-year-old Los Angeles County inmate who killed a man while driving drunk on the 210 Freeway in Azusa is trying to right his wrong by helping to raise money for the victim’s family. According to a KABC news report, 19-year-old Justin Romo was killed when Thompson drove the wrong way down the 210 Freeway during the early morning hours of August 9, 2014. Thompson initially pleaded not guilty to the felony charge, but later pleaded no contest and apologized to Romo’s family in court. Thompson was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
A Heartwarming Story
The two families have now reconciled. Romo’s mother, Lupe Garcia, told ABC she has forgiven Thompson. Now, Thompson, with the help of his family, has set up a GoFundMe page from behind bars to help the Romo family. He says it is his way of not only doing things right by the Romo family but also to warn others about the dangers of drunk driving.
This is truly a heartwarming story, but a rare one we see as personal injury lawyers who represent victims of drunk driving. It is difficult to imagine what caused Thompson to change his plea and do a 180. But we hope his efforts will go a long way to create awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and the devastation it causes to all concerned. All it takes is a moment of poor judgment.
The Problem of Drunk Driving
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), there were 882 fatalities relating to drunk driving in 2014 representing 28.7 percent of total traffic deaths, which was a 1.7 percent increase from the previous year. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place to protect the public from drunk drivers. Some of the DUI prevention strategies we do have in California that have been proven to work over the years include:
DUI laws including zero tolerance laws that make it illegal for those under 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their systems. Sobriety checkpoints that allow police to briefly stop vehicles at specific, highly visible locations to check for impaired drivers.
Ignition interlock devices that keep the car from starting if the driver has a BAC above a certain level. These devices are used for people who are convicted of drunk driving and can be highly effective at preventing repeat offenses.
Mass media campaigns spreading messages about the physical dangers and legal consequences of drunk driving.
Driver’s license revocation or suspension laws.
School-based instructional programs are often effective at teaching teens not to drive while intoxicated or ride with drunk drivers. In cases where a DUI crash causes injury or death, not only do the drivers face criminal consequences, but can also be held financially responsible for the damages they cause. Drinking and driving is a lose-lose situation all the way around. We hope stories such as Thompson’s will shed more light on this important issue.