BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - At first, Julie Vezinot smiles when she talks about her late son, Ryan. "He was such a sweet person, had so many friends," she said.
But then she remembers October 20, 2007. Ryan was walking back from the LSU vs. Auburn football game when a speeding car with its lights off ran him over on Nicholson Dr. The driver of the car was drunk. Ryan suffered severe head injuries and was in a coma before passing away eight months later.
"His friends that were with him were traumatically altered by that and still are. The person who hit him had been tailgating all day, decided to get in the car and go home," said Vezinot.
It's hard for Vezinot to talk about her son, but she feels she has to. Shortly after his death, Vezinot joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, a group that raises awareness about the problem of drunk driving. The national organization has had a chapter in Louisiana for 37 years.
December is recognized nationwide as Drunk Driving Awareness Month, and this year, MADD is partnering with the ride sharing company, UBER, to emphasize the importance of a designated driver.
"We're not against drinking. It's a myth about Mothers Against Drunk Driving. We're not a bunch of angry women. We just want you to have a designated plan in place after you take that first drink," says Valerie Cox, the victim service manager for MADD Louisiana.
MADD is also handing out red ribbons with the phrase "designate a driver." Vezinot hopes the message will encourage people at parties and sporting events to be more responsible.
"I know it's not going to change overnight," she said. "I know it's too much a part of this, ingrained in the experience, but it doesn't have to be, and I want people to see what happens when you do this."