SUGAR LAND, Texas — Many families are hitting the road this holiday weekend, but Thanksgiving weekend can be one of the most dangerous times to travel because of drunk driving.
“There’s always a chair at the table that’s missing," said Aliyah Hitchcock, who lost her father Steve Rudoff in a 2016 impaired driving crash. “There’s always a person missing or the feeling of emptiness."
Rudoff was a diamond importer from Sugar Land. He was also the secretary of the Board of Trustees at Beth Yeshurun. Hitchcock said he was everyone’s best friend.
“My dad was one of those people that wanted to help everybody, had a huge heart," she said.
On May 7, 2016, he was hit and killed by Arnesia Washington on the West Loop near Evergreen. Prosecutors told the court she was high on hydrocodone and had her two children in the backseat. She was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
“I can tell my story and if someone hears my story and they decide not to drink and drive because of my story, or not to do drugs and drive because of my story, then that’s one person’s life I save," she said.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, during the holiday season in 2021, 23% of traffic-related deaths were caused by drivers under the influence.
“Get a Lyft, get an Uber, call a friend," said Hitchcock.
She's now an advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Her dad missed family weddings and graduations. She said he was always his wife and three daughters’ biggest fan.
“Losing a parent, a child, a friend – anyone, because of something that’s 100% avoidable is the hardest thing in the world," she said.
Impaired driving isn’t just limited to alcohol. Drugged driving is also a growing problem and one of the reasons MADD has expanded its mission to tackle the issue, especially during the holidays.