A mother who lost her son to an impaired driver shares her story to spark change



JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – New devices that help track drunk drivers are likely on the way and a local mother who lost her son to a drunk driver says she can’t come soon enough.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Act requires new cars to be equipped with alcohol detection devices.

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board also recommended them in all cars.

Davika Puls lost his son Nathan Schmidt after a drunk and stoned driver rammed his car in October 2018. He was stopped at a red light in Orange Park, working his shift as a delivery driver.

The accident caused a collision between three cars. Schmidt was 23 years old.

“That’s what’s going to happen if you drink and drive,” Puls said. “Either you put your name on a tombstone, or you put someone else’s name on a tombstone.

This driver is serving over a decade in prison, but Puls has lost much more.

“It’s probably the worst moment of my life is walking in and seeing your child covered in a white sheet, with tubes and a C-collar on a stretcher, gone,” she said. declared.

Schmidt was about nine months away from earning a college degree in radiology.

Davika said Nathan, the eldest of five children, was adored not only by her, but also by his father and younger siblings.

“He grew up to be a kind, loving and caring person,” she said. “There was nothing he wouldn’t have done for someone else.”

Lawmakers and federal officials are working to make sure another family doesn’t have to go through something like this.

The bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year requires automakers to install mandatory alcohol detection systems in cars.

The devices would be passive, meaning the driver doesn’t have to do anything for them to work.

They would stop a car from moving if they felt a driver might be drunk.

“If this technology prevents someone from driving drunk and killing someone and committing suicide, then I’m all for it,” Puls said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving spearheaded this effort.

“It has the potential to eliminate drunk driving, period. That’s great news,” said Judy Cotton of MADD Northeast Florida. “This technology, once it’s in all vehicles , which will obviously take a long time to deploy to the fleet, it will likely save around 9,400 lives per year.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has three years to determine how the devices will be implemented.

In the meantime, Puls said she will continue to warn students, parents and anyone who listens about the dangers of drunk driving.

“I can’t save a room full of 3,000 people, but maybe I can save one. That’s all I want is to save one person. One person at a time,” Puls said.

Federal officials say new cars with this kind of technology could roll off the assembly line in 2026 or 2027.

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