Despite aggressive anti-DUI campaigns and strict impaired driving laws throughout the country, drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers continue to cause a staggering number of fatalities on our roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that of the 37,133 people who died in traffic accidents nationwide in 2017, approximately 28 percent of the crashes involved a driver who was legally impaired by alcohol.
Each year in Colorado, motor vehicle accidents where at least one driver was driving under the influence of alcohol kill about 160 people. While every DUI death is tragic, few stories are more sobering than the case of little Sophia Rivera — a 2-year-old girl killed in a multi-vehicle crash on August 10, 2018.
Infant Girl Killed in Crash Caused by Impaired Mom
On that fateful day, Sophia was riding in the back seat of a car driven by her mom, 29-year-old Samantha Miranda Maestas. They were traveling east on Interstate 70 near Genesee when they encountered heavy traffic caused by an earlier crash. Maestas reportedly overreacted while attempting to avoid rear-ending vehicles in front of her, slammed on the brakes and swerved hard.
She subsequently lost control of her 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, broke through the center median and collided with an SUV on the opposite side of the highway. Reports say that “the impact of the collision demolished the back half of Maestas’ car” where Sophia was, killing the infant and leaving Maestas in critical condition.
Mom Admits to Snorting Meth, Drinking, Taking Drugs
Following an extensive investigation into the fatal crash, police issued an arrest warrant for Maestas. Officials have charged her with DUI, DUI vehicular homicide and two counts of careless driving resulting in injury (for the victims in the SUV she struck). Charges also include child abuse resulting in death, driving under restraint, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Maestas reportedly told on-scene troopers that she had been out drinking and snorting meth until 3 a.m. and a photo of the crash shows a “green straw in a small plastic baggy.” She also disclosed taking Vicodin for back pain, and despite her blood draw showing 160ng/mL of meth and 40ng/mL of amphetamine, Maestas denied being high.
Adding to the tragic circumstances of this story is the fact that Maestas has a record of reckless driving dating back to 2009 when she was also charged with driving without a license and leaving the scene of an accident.
Colorado Authorities Fight Back Against Impaired Drivers With Technology
In Colorado, authorities are working to reduce the number of DUI crashes and fatalities by ramping up their enforcement efforts. This past holiday season, they launched a state-wide DUI crackdown involving cooperation from more than 100 agencies, and previous holiday DUI blitzes took more than 350 impaired drivers off the roads.
Because Colorado has exceptionally high rates of repeat DUI offenders, state authorities have turned to technology to help reduce impaired driving by distributing breathalyzers either for free or at a steep discount. The Colorado Department of Transportation also established a breathalyzer street team that attended events throughout the state to promote the use of personal breathalyzers as a tool to help alcohol users understand their level of impairment.
Colorado residents are embracing the use of personal breathalizers at a staggering rate, and per-capita breathalyzer sales and tracked usage are higher here than in any other state.
Although it’s too soon to tell if personal breathalizers will help reduce the rates of DUI crashes in Colorado, everyone agrees that something has to be done to prevent a repeat of the tragic events that killed little Sophia.