Victim Of 1982 Drunk Driving Crash To Fight ‘Happy Hour’ Amendment

By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV

PEMBROKE (CBS) – For Erin Brenton, this fight is about safety and family.

In 1982, she and her sister Heather were walking down Birch Street in Pembroke when they were run down by a drunk driver. Erin, who was 9, suffered head and leg injuries; Heather, who was 6, was killed.

“My sister was killed by a 17-year-old who was drunk from the night before. He was so drunk the following day that he hit us from behind. We were two little girls walking down the street delivering Camp Fire items. I will never allow her to be forgotten,” said Brenton.

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports.

After the crash, Heather and Erin’s father Charles Woods fought for tougher drunk driving laws, and helped to pass the ban on Happy Hour drink specials.

Now, Erin is stunned to learned that as part of the new casino gambling bill, the Happy Hour ban in place for 30 years could be wiped out.

“It’s wrong. It’s literally wrong. You’re allowing people to binge drink and then they’re going to get into their car and drive home. I won’t stand for somebody to go in and wipe out what my father worked so hard for. It’s literally going to put drunk drivers back on the streets,” said Brenton.

On Wednesday, Sen. Robert Hedlund introduced an amendment in the Senate debate to allow all restaurants to operate by the same alcohol rules as casinos. This vote, which followed the vote to allow casinos to serve free drinks, was passed by a strong majority.

Sen. Hedlund, who owns a restaurant in Braintree, argues it is an issue of equality for restaurants, so they can compete at the same level as those in casinos.

Sen. Hedlund has been a strong advocate for strengthening drunk driving laws and increasing punishment. He was a lead sponsor or Melanie’s Law.

“If the people fighting this amendment want to do something meaningful about drunk driving, there’s a press conference on October 27th in support of my interlock device legislation. This bill would require interlock devices in the cars of first offense drunk drivers. The restaurant protection amendment leaves drink specials in the hands of the commission. Whatever the casinos get, small business restaurateurs get. I prefer no free drinks, and voted to ban free drinks at the casino during debate. But if casinos are allowed to give out free drinks than the playing field should be level and restaurants should be allowed to as well. Also, there were no negligible changes in drunk driving statistics when ‘Happy Hour’ was banned in the 80s. The only changes to drunk driving statistics came after the passage of Melanie’s Law, which I was the lead sponsor of in the Senate,” Sen. Hedlund said in a statement Friday night.

But, Brenton isn’t backing down.

“I just can’t stand by and allow this to happen. I think everyone should call Senator Hedlund and tell him, ‘shame on him.’ You can’t have it both ways,” said Brenton. “I will fight tooth and nail for stronger drunk driving laws in Massachusetts for ever and what my father did, Charles Woods, won’t be forgotten.”

  • Matt

    Get over it allready.

    • susan mercaldi


    • Erin Brenton

      I wish I could Matt, but I have the scars that are a constant reminder of a left foot that was practically severed…I also wish my sister Heather was here to remind me…Can you tell her to tell me to “Get over it”? Oh yeah… she can’t…She’s gone forever.. That’s right FOREVER!

      Too bad the Bar/Restaurants can’t keep track of every patron in their establishment…also why would they want to promote “binge” drinking?…why would anyone want such a promotion at all? This does not look like responsible ownership. I hope you are not responsible for the deaths of innocent people on the roadways of Massachusetts.

      • Matt

        If you miss her so much then why don’t you just kill yourself and then you can be reunited forever. Now I will be contacting my local and state officials to do anything I can yo get happy hour back in this state.

    • Beth

      Matt, I cant imagine where you are coming from, but if and when you have children, you will come to understand the importance of stopping this amendment.
      Go Erin!!!

  • Ed Hall

    Alcohol is the most dangerous and destructive drug in the world. The idea of giving it away is insane!

    • Matt

      The idea of giving it away it great. Bars should be allowed to do what they want with their products and services.

  • Erin Brenton

    Please send Senator Hedlund an email and tell him that you are disappointed that he is trying to bring back Happy Hours…here is his info:
    State House
    Room 313C
    Boston, MA 02133
    Phone: 617-722-1646
    Fax: 617-722-1028

    District Office
    66 Sea Street
    Weymouth, MA 02188
    Phone: 781-340-9866

  • Lisa

    I support you Erin. I am against drinking and driving, period .. never mind giving away free drinks no matter where you are. If any of these people lost a close one due to drunk driving, they would be for it aswell. I will send an email to Robert Hedlund & let him know what I think. Thank you for bringing this to light and keeping the memory of your sister alive.

  • twocents

    Matt, you sound like a drunk looking for a free drink. I hope you read your comments when your sober, perhaps you’ll notice how rude you are. But I doubt it. Erin I’m on your side, I sorry for your loss.

  • Erin Brenton

    Thank you all so much…I appreciate it wholeheartedly. Check out the feed that is trending on facebook on Girls on the Go. It’s totally awesome. I can’t even begin to thank you all. My father Charles Woods worked so hard as President of MADD in the 80’s to help establish much needed laws. My own children bring my parents so much happiness. No worries on Matt…everyone is entitled to their opinion…But I will NEVER stop trying to strengthen the laws in this state to end drunk driving. Much respect, Erin.

  • Erin Brenton

    Special thank you to Karen and Steve for all coming to my house. I really appreciate their time and hard work:)

  • tom

    I remember…Do not give up, it’s amazing how insensitive some people like Matt can be. Forget about him, and use your memories of your sister to give you the strength and courage to keep fighting! I was 8, and played ball at the fields on Birch St, and wondered how somone could do that to 2 little girls!

  • Ginger

    I for one am not completely against Happy Hour coming back to MA. As a person who grew up in NJ (where they have Happy Hour), I never considered it to be an opportunity for “binge drinking” but rather just getting a discount on beverages and appetizers. It’s not like I was pounding them back trying to get my fill in before the special was up. They weren’t handing out free drinks or anything…. just discounting a pitcher of beer or something.

    Regardless of whether or not there is a happy hour, there will always be irresponsible drivers that will get in cars after having too much to drink, and no ban on happy hour will really stop it.

    I’m sorry for the loss you suffered Erin, but who’s to say that the incident wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for happy hour? This guy Matt is an insensitive jerk, I’ll give you that…. but I’m in support of the amendment on a personal level.

  • Erin Brenton

    Ginger, Thank you for your kind words. Don’t sweat Matt, I think his words speak volumes as to who he is and there are… no worries. As for this amendment, please understand this is coming from Senator Hedlund, a man that advocated for tougher drunk driving laws and please remember my father, Charles Woods in the 80’s, helped abolish this legislation. Solely by the hands of Senator Hedlund, a man I trusted to defend and advocate for the victims is this amendment in this bill at all. He should have known better. He can’t have it both ways. He can’t advocate and ask to be commended for Melanie’s Law and then on the other hand be responsible for bringing back this legislation that will in someway result in “binge drinking”. This is a conflict of interest in so many ways and is just “politics as usual”. He has totally lost my respect. But, please note I appreciate your posting, your comments and sincerely respect your opinion. .

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