BEAUMONT, Texas — A Beaumont man has dedicated his life to educating others about the dangers of drunk driving after an accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Every day in the United States, about 28 people die in drunk driving crashes. That is almost one death every 52 minutes.
In Texas, one person dies every 8 hours and 31 minutes in alcohol-related crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Experts said these deaths are entirely preventable.
Dani Simien said he was almost a part of that statistic, but he considers himself one of the lucky ones. As a kid, Simien dreamed of becoming a firefighter and saving lives.
“One day in April of 2007, in a split second, that was all thrown out the window,” Simien said.
When the crash happened, Simien was 18 years old and had just dropped off his prom date at her home. After dropping her off, he was hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way on Highway 69.
“Last thing I remember was, you know, turning off of her street, going the underpass, passing up a store and waking up in the ICU about two and a half weeks later,” Simien said.
Simien spent eight months in the hospital and was left paralyzed from the waist down.
“It robbed a lot of my life," Simien said. "You know, after graduation, all the time that I was supposed to make mistakes and learn from them, I didn't have that because I was in hospital still fighting for my life."
Since the accident, Simien has had 20 major surgeries and has dealt with suicidal thoughts. Now, he volunteers with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Simien is sharing his story in hopes of educating others. He talks to young people about his experience in hopes to highlight the dangers of drunk driving.
“When I get up there, it's just a mic in my hand," Simien said. "A lot of people are like, 'Oh you don't wanna write it down. You don't want to have nothing.' For what? I lived it. It's in my head. It's branded in my head."
Simien said it is a miracle that he is still alive. While he is limited to a wheelchair, he is not letting that stop him from living his life and having an impact on others.
"I tasted it," Simien said. "I cheated death. So what more could be done to me on earth that I could be scared of. Nothing."