CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A new statewide advertising campaign against drunken driving takes aim at the culture of drinking and driving in Wyoming by centering on an alcohol-related crash that killed eight University of Wyoming student-athletes in 2001.
"This media campaign is based on what I believe is the largest single incident of loss of life from an alcohol-related crash in Wyoming history," Mike Reed, policy analyst with Gov. Matt Mead's office, said.
The radio, television and newspaper ads sponsored by the Governor's Council on Impaired Driving began Monday — the 12th anniversary of the horrific crash.
Reed, who is liaison between the governor's office and the council, said the campaign has the backing of the families who lost sons in the wreck.
Debbie McLeland of Gillette is the mother of one of the cross country athletes killed in the crash on Sept. 16, 2001, south of Laramie. She strongly supports the campaign.
"You have eight families that are willing to say: Go ahead open this wound for us again and we'll put it out there," McLeland said Tuesday.
She said she hopes the campaign will change attitudes in Wyoming about being able to drink and drive.
"Nobody should ever, ever have to die because of drunk driving because it's 100 percent preventable," she said. "Just don't get in your car and drive drunk."
More than 600 people have died in alcohol-related traffic accidents since the eight UW athletes were killed.
Reed said the new ad campaign is a continuation of a $600,000 effort to combat drunken driving.
The first campaign centered on personal responsibility, while this latest effort centers on the broader goal of trying to change a culture that has largely minimized the risk of driving drunk, he said.
He acknowledged the goal is ambitious.
"To change a cultural approach or a cultural norm, it's going to take time and we won't accomplish it with a single campaign," Reed said. "But if we can influence people to start the discussion or continue the discussion concerning impaired driving or drunk driving, that will be the first step."