On the night of Jeff Kudlacik’s 23rd birthday, he was struck by a drunk driver at an intersection. In a car crash that was so severe it split Jeff’s vehicle right down the middle, he was sprung from the vehicle and landed on the street. When a witness called 911 for assistance, he made it clear that the scene was gruesome and there was a lot of blood. A crew of first responders arrived on the scene and it didn’t take long for them to come to the conclusion that Jeff would pass.
“We know that the guy’s probably gonna pass,” one of the officers said. “According to medics he’s gonna pass.”
And then, in one of the worst moments a parent can face, officers contacted Jeff’s parents, informing them that they should get to the hospital fast.
“We were just in complete shock when the police officers came to the door,” said Jeff’s mom. “It’s your worst nightmare.”
“We cannot put that thought in our minds he cannot be dead,” Jeff’s dad, Rick said. “It didn’t look good. It looked bad.”
The car that caused the accident was driven by Michael Smith, who appeared unsteady during a field sobriety test and was soon charged with operating a vehicle under the influence.
Because of Michael Smith’s reckless behavior, Jeff was in a coma for three weeks. And during those three weeks, his parents suffered the hardship of not knowing whether their son would live.
In what some are calling a complete miracle, Jeff woke up from the coma.
“The first person I saw when I opened my eyes was my mom,” said Jeff, who miraculously suffered no brain damage, but had a punctured lung, broken ribs and legs.
Jeff is forever grateful to the firefighters and first responders who saved his life.
“Without these guys, I wouldn’t be here right now,” said Jeff, as he shook hands with the team that saved him.
As far as Michael Smith, he later pleaded guilty to aggravated battery while driving under the influence and was sentenced to 31 months behind bars.
As a result of the accident, Jeff and his family are working towards changing the laws in Kansas so bar owners are held accountable for accidents that involved drunk driving.
While fatalities caused by drunk driving has decreased quite a bit, there is still work to be done when it comes to putting a stop to those who get behind the wheel while under the influence. In 2016, alcohol-impaired driving accounted for 28% of the total vehicle traffic fatalities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37,461 people died in traffic crashes in 2016 in the United States, including an estimated 10,497 people who were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of .08 or greater. Among the people killed in these drunk driving crashes, 67% (7,052) were in crashes in which at least one driver in the crash had a BAC of .15 or higher. For every 100,000 Americans under the age of 21, 1.2 people were killed in drunk driving fatalities in 2016. The rate of under 21 drunk driving fatalities per 100,000 population has declined 45% over the past decade.