ANCHORAGE, Alaska — During the same year in which Lori Phillips drove drunk and without a license into a head-on collision that injured Joyua Stovall and killed her fiancé, almost 1,100 other Alaska drivers did the same thing, a Channel 2 News investigation has revealed.
Data from the Alaska Department of Public Safety obtained by Channel 2 shows that arrests have fallen over the last few years, however, for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs while their license was suspended or revoked.
In 2009 -- the year of Phillips’ deadly crash, for which she was convicted of second-degree murder in 2010 and sentenced to 22 years in prison in March -- there were 1,094 DUI arrests of drivers with suspended or revoked licenses. That compares with 863 in 2010 and 618 in 2011, with 476 fewer arrests made last year versus 2009.
"I would like to think education and enforcement has played a very powerful role in that, because that's our goal and that's what we've been putting a lot of effort in," said Lt. Tom Dunn, deputy commander of the Alaska State Troopers’ Bureau of Highway Patrol.
Troopers think that progress may be related to more focused efforts including staffing increases and targeting safety-zone corridors, like those along the Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood, as well as Knik-Goose Bay Road in the Mat-Su Valley.
Stovall’s recovery has reached the point where she is now walking with a cane. The crash’s violent impact crushed the right side of her body, and she blames Phillips for her injuries.
"I love walking, and she took the one thing I love away -- isn't that crazy?” Stovall said.
While Stovall is making physical progress, the death of fiancé Louis Clement and Phillips’ lack of apology have left her with survivor’s guilt. She says she’d like anyone considering drinking and driving to remember her experience, and the reality of her everyday struggles.
“I hope I find forgiveness in my heart one day,” Stovall said, quietly struggling with the words. “I'm just not there yet.”
Stovall says one of her most ironic memories, from the final hours before the 2009 crash, was seeing a commercial on TV -- one that warned of the consequences of drinking and driving.
Email Matthew Simon