Highway Signs Caution against Driving Drunk; So Do Victim's Parents

Article excerpt

Shirley and Bill Otto stood to the side as politicians and police officials spoke about the significance of Thursday morning's ceremony on the side of a road near Fort Zumwalt North High School in O'Fallon, Mo.

They heard St. Charles County Executive Joe Ortwerth say December is an appropriate month to observe National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month because "a little holiday cheer can mean a lifetime of no cheer for the victims of drunk drivers."

They listened to Steve Talbott, the O'Fallon police chief, say, "Driving while intoxicated is one of the most serious crimes in this county, and O'Fallon will continue to have strong DWI enforcement."

Douglas Saulters, the St. Charles County sheriff, spoke about his department's new four-man team dedicated to cracking down on alcohol- and drug-impaired driving. Saulters had on display a new DWI enforcement patrol car.

Tim Braun, the county prosecuting attorney, said his office was working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving "to bring about legislation changes" that will help prosecutors get convictions in manslaughter cases involving drunken drivers.

The Ottos aren't from St. Charles County, but they were on hand as officials unveiled the first of 35 road signs that are going up in strategic locations, such as the one near the high school.

The signs read: "Think . . . Don't Drink and Drive."

When other ceremonies are held in Warren, Jefferson and St. Louis counties, and about 175 such signs will be placed in the area this month, the Ottos plan to attend. Their daughter, Michelle, was killed on Oct. 22, 1994, in a crash on Interstate 55 at Bates Street in south St. Louis.

Michelle Otto was 27. She was a graduate of Lindbergh High and Southeast Missouri State University and worked as a hospital dietitian. She was riding in the front seat on the passenger's side when the car was struck from behind about 1 a.m. by a car traveling at a high rate of speed. …