Florida reporter recovering after car crash involving drunk driver


PANAMA CITY, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Americans are set to hit the road in near-record numbers on this Memorial Day holiday. AAA predicts 37 million Americans will travel this weekend; the vast majority of people are expected to drive.

The rise in travel appears to be fueled by an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as an improving economy. However, as many Americans are eager to break free from coronavirus confinement, motorists should be cautious of the potential threats on the road.

According to the National Safety Council, the number of deadly car crashes goes up during a holiday due to increased travel time and more alcohol use.

In 2010, more than 100,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes — one every 51 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency has found fatal crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver are more likely on weekends and at night.

NewsNation affiliate WMBB reporter Tess Rowland knows first-hand the dangers of drinking and driving. She was hit by a drunk driver earlier this month and is recovering from severe injuries.

(Photo: Tess Rowland)

Rowland said she was driving to work, taking her usual route, around 2:45 a.m. on the day of the crash when she saw headlights suddenly appear.

“I just remember seeing headlights all of a sudden on Panama City Beach Parkway, which is typically a rather dark road,” Rowland recalled. “I was confused. I was saying to myself are those backlights and then, in fact, it was a wrong-way drunk driver.”

Rowland said she had five surgeries within nine days of being in the hospital.

“In terms of my injuries, some would say that, by looking at my car, I was rather lucky because most of my injures are from my right side, a lot of the nerves also were damaged, as well as my knee,” she said. “So, I’m wearing a full leg brace and a full arm brace. I also had some internal damage, as well, which we discovered when I was in the hospital, so I had to have emergency surgery on my intestines, as well.”

Rowland said she’s currently enrolled in physical therapy in the most aggressive treatment to reach what she says will be her “new normal.” She said, at this time, doctors aren’t exactly sure what’s going to happen.

“I do have a goal, though, which I shared with them. My birthday is July 18th, which is right around the corner, I told them that my biggest wish is that I want to be able to walk into a restaurant and not have to wear my leg brace and my arm brace; just to have a normal meal. And they said that there is a really high probability for that,” Rowland said.

“But as for what I’m going to experience in my lifetime with these injuries, we can’t say just yet if I’ll make a full recovery if I’ll gain full motion, which is a really scary thing.”

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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