Police: Weekend Crashes Involved Alcohol

By: Ann McIntire Email
By: Ann McIntire Email

Omaha roads proved dangerous this holiday weekend. A number of people were hospitalized after crashes, but police say none of them were accidents. They could have been avoided.

A woman is fighting for her life after crashing her car early Sunday morning in the area of 136th and Q streets. Twenty-one-year-old Hillary Serama lost control of her vehicle, sliding into a telephone pole. Even more tragic, it may have been preventable.

"We don't believe speed, excessive speed to be a factor, but we believe alcohol to be a factor in the crash," said Omaha Police Sgt. Joseph Collins.

Alcohol is also suspected in the crash at 13th and Missouri Saturday night. Nineteen-year-old Danielle Jepsen was a passenger in one of the vehicles and was thrown from the car. Police say both drivers were drinking.

Another crash happened at 35th and Laurel Avenue around 10:15 Saturday night. Police say Robert Fair was driving north on 35th Street when he went through a stop sign and an eastbound vehicle hit him in the driver's side door. The eastbound vehicle was a Child Savings Institute vehicle, transporting two children. The driver and two kids were not injured, but the other driver, Fair, was sent to the hospital with broken ribs. Police say he had been drinking.

Rachel Wade is the call center manager for Happy Cab. She says it was an unusually quiet weekend for her workers. During a holiday, the question isn't if people are out celebrating, but why they don't arrange for a safe ride home. "It's always better to just jump in a cab, flag one down and take it home," said Wade.

A new program called "I Care Cab Fare" is hoping to encourage that. It's a prepaid gift card that can be purchased at any SAC Federal Credit Union and only used on a taxi. "This is something they can use year 'round, not just during the holidays and get home safe," said Wade.

The program was started by the Sarpy County Sheriff's Department. The cards are currently 20 percent off heading into the holiday season and can be used throughout the metro.

Police say charges have been filed or are pending in all three weekend crashes.

Nebraska State Sen. Burke Harr plans to submit a legislative resolution next session asking that the effectiveness of Nebraska's DUI laws be studied. He says since 1991, the Legislature has passed more than 120 changes to its statutes regarding driving under the influence, but no effort has been made to study the effectiveness of the changes.

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