SOUTH JORDAN — Michael "Mikey" McMillian, 27, was driving home from a scuba diving class the night he was killed by a drunken driver.
"Michael loved a good adventure," said his mother, Jan McMillian, explaining that her son had recently been fitted for a wetsuit and couldn't wait to go on his first dive.
She shared her son's story Thursday in their hometown of South Jordan at a press conference kicking off the statewide Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over law enforcement mobilization.
It was nearly midnight on March 26, 2015, when another driver crashed head-on into Michael McMillian on I-215 near 1700 East.
The drunken driver had a blood-alcohol content level six times over the legal limit. Officers said she drove the wrong way on I-15 and I-215 for several miles before she hit McMillian.
Traveling at 80 mph, she was killed instantly in the crash that sent both vehicles spinning.
Emergency crews spent 30 to 45 minutes cutting Michael McMillian out of the wreckage of his station wagon. He was taken to the hospital where he died a few days later.
"This did not need to happen," Jan McMillian said. "Please, if you’re going to drink, make a plan. Do not drive."
"This is a violent death that could’ve been avoided," her husband, Michael McMillian, added.
During the holidays, law enforcement agencies across Utah are working more than 300 overtime shifts to stop drunken drivers.
"If someone makes that silly decision to drink and drive, we'll have an officer out there to make sure they don't get the opportunity to cause a tragedy," said Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich.
Every officer from the UHP or South Jordan police department, he continued, have likely responded to similar tragedies involving drunken driving.
"They’ve had the opportunity to see the results of the tragedy," Rapich said. "They go to homes and tell family members why a loved one will not be coming home."
Holidays often bring higher numbers of drunken drivers on the road.
Last year, the highest rate of alcohol-related driver crashes happened during the end-of-the-year celebrations, according to data from the Utah Department of Public Safety.
On Christmas, nine crashes were directly considered to be alcohol-related, while another seven DUI crashes happened on New Year's Day.
None of the crashes resulted in a death, Rapich said, but they were all opportunities for disaster.
"We do not want the holidays to become a memory of a loved one tragically lost because someone made that very foolish decision to drink and drive," he said.
The holidays can also increase the risk of crashes because of factors like driving tired or impaired, speeding, traveling long distances or on unfamiliar roadways.4 comments on this story
During the past 10 years, almost 17 percent of holiday deaths involved a drunk driver, according to data from the Utah Department of Public Safety.
"Every time someone gets behind the wheel after drinking, they are needlessly and selfishly putting other people’s lives at risk," said South Jordan Police Chief Jeff Carr. "It’s never safe to drink and drive."
Calling a friend or getting picked up by Lyft or Uber drivers are safe ways to travel home, he added.
"As you make your holiday party plans, make sure you include a safe and sober way home."