Project Drive Sober: Impact of drugged driving

Posted at 5:26 PM, Nov 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-13 10:20:42-05

We will air this full story tonight on NBC26 at 10:00.

The loss of a family member is something that never really goes away.

"There are always reminders," Paul Jenkins said. "There's always the empty chair at a holiday celebration or a birthday or that sort of thing."

For Paul and Judy Jenkins, the empty chair belongs to their daughter, Jennifer Bukosky. However, it's not just her loss that this family grieves. They also lost Jennifer's daughter, Courtney, and Jennifer's unborn child.

Together, three loved ones were all killed in one crash on April 25, 2008. Jennifer had just picked up her children from school.

"This doctor, who was high on prescription drugs, slammed into the back of her car going 50 miles an hour," Judy said.

The driver, Dr. Mark Benson, was high on Ambien, Xanax, and Oxycodone. He pled guilty to a different drunk driving offense just two days before the crash.

"It's agonizing, I think, to wait, see what's going to happen to - in this case, the doctor that rammed into our daughter," Judy explained.

A Waukesha County Circuit Court judge sentenced Benson to 30 years in prison. While waiting for that decision, Paul and Judy turned to advocacy.

"During those two years, I think in order to focus our grief and our sadness, we got involved in contacting legislators," Judy said.

They started talking with Representative Jim Ott.

"Getting behind the wheel impaired is an individual decision, and unfortunately we have too many people that are making that decision in Wisconsin," Ott said.

Representative Ott has tried passing bills to make a first offense OWI a crime, even compromising to get the charge removed if a person doesn't have another for five years. But the bill hasn't gone through, and Ott says part of the reason is the public.

"To say, I don't want it to be criminalized because it might happen to me, it doesn't have to happen to you," Ott said. "It doesn't have to happen to anybody."

Here in Wisconsin, it does happen.

"Then, you're left with your real life, and that's the hardest part," Judy said. "You have to life that life."

They have to live despite those constant reminders - the empty chair.

"We live our life as i guess we always would, we just live them without people that were dear to us," Paul said.

Paul often joins victim impact programs where he talks with people who have committed an OWI offense. He said that there's frustration that the faces always change, but the numbers in the room are almost always the same. He said that his hope it to always get one person to change their ways.