ASHVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Since losing their daughter to a drunk driver in 2020, Bryan and Teresa Wright have been fighting desperately to reform impaired driving laws in Ohio.
They’re working to bring a new bill to state lawmakers that would increase impaired driving penalties for repeat offenders.
“I never will forget the knock on the door, that was at 4:45 a.m. That distinct knock that the sheriff department. — you just can’t mistake it,” recalls Bryan Wright.
It was that morning that the lives of Bryan and his wife Teresa changed forever.
“I didn’t hear anything that the police officer said, I just knew it was bad,” Teresa says fighting tears. “I heard my son screaming because of the devastation, and…”
Thursday will mark two years since the couple’s daughter Olivia was killed by a drunk driver.
A memorial with a cross and flowers now sits on the side of Highway 104 near Ashville, where a pickup truck struck her head-on.
Now, on the anniversary of her death, Olivia’s parents are honoring her life by making sure no parent experiences the same loss they did.
“You just don’t know,” an emotional Teresa urges. “Cherish every moment you have. Love every moment you have. Love your family as much as possible, because you just don’t know.”
Her loved ones called her Liv. She was only 22 years old and just two weeks removed from her birthday. Instead of Liv and her friends, it’s now mementos and pictures that fill her parents’ living room.
“The house was so full of life and [vibrancy] and I just really miss that,” Bryan admits. Liv worked with special needs children and had a passion for helping others.
“It’s weird to say, but as a mom, I just want to be half the person she was,” Teresa says. “In her 22 years she did so many things,” including making care packages for the homeless and visiting with the elderly at nursing homes.
Liv also had a passion for justice, which is why her parents have spent the past 16 months working on ‘Liv’s Law’ — a bill that would increase the state’s penalties for impaired driving.
“I was so angry that I wasn’t going to stand by and allow my daughter to be just a number,” Bryan emphasizes. “Olivia wasn’t represented in this entire proceeding. From the entire 13 months she was a case number, and that was it.”
The bill is sponsored by state representative Mark Johnson. While the bill’s language is still being worked on, Liv’s parents say they’re already gaining statehouse support.
“The response from legislators has been fantastic,” says a hopeful father. “This is not a partisan issue.”
In a statement to NBC4, Representative Johnson said this about the proposed bill:
“What happened to Liv was a great tragedy, one that should not have happened if the impaired driver took responsibility, however they chose otherwise. Many other Ohioans have witnessed other similar tragedies. As a lawmaker that represents the Wright family, I feel compelled to take action to increase the penalties for impaired driving, especially repeat offenders where a death occurs because of their negligence.”
They know they’ll face opposition, but Bryan and Teresa are hopeful the bill will be dropped in the House sometime in November.
“Until we get tough with the laws, until we put out foot down and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ status quo is going to be status quo,” Bryan emphasizes. “Nothing’s going to change.”
And when it does, they say they’ll call on lawmakers to follow in their daughter’s steps and ‘Liv(e) (W)right.’
“This could be your child, this could be your spouse, it could be someone in your family,” reminds Teresa. “And it’s a devastation that you’ll live with forever.”