Anti-Drunk Driving Advocate Jacqui Saburido Dies Aged 40

April 24, 2019 Updated: April 24, 2019

Jacqui Saburido, the victim of a horrific DUI traffic accident who became an iconic anti-drunk driving advocate, has died.

Saburido, who used her disfiguring injuries to highlight the horrors of drunk driving, was 40 at the time of her death, according to family cited by Fox News.

“This is me when my life was just like anyone else in college,” Saburino says in a public awareness spot featured on CNN, as she holds up a framed portrait of herself before suffering horrific burns in a 1999 crash in Texas. “This is me after being hit by a drunk driver,” Saburido says, as she lowers the photograph to reveal a heavily-scarred countenance that would be featured in a Texas Department of Transportation in its “Faces of Drunk Driving” campaign.

“TABC [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] is saddened to learn of the passing of Jacqui Saburido, who used her life-changing injuries to help tell others about the dangers of drunk driving,” the state agency wrote in a tweet Monday following news of Saburido’s death.

The campaigner died from cancer in Guatemala, KXAN reported.

Her cousin Jose Saburido told the Austin American-Statesman that she moved to Guatemala City several years ago to receive better medical treatment in her fight against the disease.

Jacqueline Saburido before and after the accident
Jacqueline Saburido became the face of a campaign to end drunk driving after being left disfigured following a horrible DUI crash in Texas in 1999. She died on April 20, 2019, according to family. (Texas Department of Transportation)

Life-Changing Crash

Saburido was 20 when a car she was in with four friends was hit head-on by a drunk driver, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Two passengers in the car were killed on impact.

Saburido suffered third-degree burns to over 60 percent of her body after the car caught fire. She was covered in flames for almost a minute before paramedics were able to put the blaze out and pull her to safety.

The young woman needed 120 surgeries after the crash and was left permanently disfigured.

The drunk driver whose SUV drifted into the opposing lane and caused the crash was 18-year-old Reggie Stephey, was convicted of two counts of intoxication manslaughter.

Stephey was sentenced to seven years behind bars.

Advocacy Work

Following the crash, Saburido became a courageous and vocal campaigner against drunk driving.

She made numerous public appearances and was featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“Even if it means sitting here in front of a camera with no ears, no nose, no eyebrows, no hair, I’ll do this a thousand times if it will help someone make a wise decision,” Saburido said during one of her appearances, as cited by CNN.

Saburido said in 2009 she struggled to move forward with her life a decade after the night that changed her world forever.

“Emotionally, I haven’t been able to go forward,” she said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “I’d like to be happy with myself, to accept myself how I am and be more independent.”

Despite the debilitating injuries and the crushing psychological impact, she pressed ahead with perseverance to raise awareness.

“This is part of my mission here on the Earth,” she said in a video on the Faces of Drunk Driving site. “If this face and this body can help others, then why not?”

Drunk Driving Statistics

On any given day, nearly 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes, according to 2017 figures published by the United States Department of Transportation.

This is equivalent to one lost life every 48 minutes or just over 10,000 deaths per year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, 214 (17 percent) involved a driver operating under the influence of alcohol.

More than 1 million drivers were arrested in 2016 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.

Deaths due to drunk-driving have fallen by a third in the last three decades, the DOT notes.

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