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

By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV
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Erin Brenton was injured and her sister Heather (left) was killed in a 1982 drunk driving crash.

Erin Brenton was injured and her sister Heather (left) was killed in a 1982 drunk driving crash.

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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.”

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