MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Driving under the influence with precious cargo and near a school.
That’s what police accused a Memphis woman of doing.
Police said 44-year-old Helena Cates admitted to taking Valium on Wednesday, September 16 before she ran a red light and caused a crash.
Whitney Milam was working in her BBQ truck, Grills on Wheels, at North Watkins and Delano and saw the intersection shutdown.
“I heard the impact of the crash,” she explained.
Police said Cates was headed south on North Watkins when she ran a red light and collided with another car.
When officers arrived, they found a two-year-old, two four-year-olds and two seven-year-olds in the back seat.
Some of the children were sharing seat belts.
Cates’ behavior also caught officers attention.
They said she was swaying and slurring her words.
When they asked her about it, they said she told them she took two Valium.
“That is kinda crazy. It’s ridiculous. People driving under the influence like that,” said Milam.
Thankfully no one was seriously injured, but WREG found some stats that showed that doesn’t always happen.
A 2010 study from Drugabuse.gov reported in 46.5% of deadly crashes the driver was under the influence of prescription drugs.
The most common drugs were Xanax, Vicodin, Oxycontin and Valium.
Karen Morgan with Addiction Campuses is an alcohol and drug abuse counselor.
She said people often forget how dangerous these drugs can be.
“People don’t generally get behind the wheel of a car knowingly they’re under the influence. I’ve been prescribed this medication by a licensed physician so it must be okay for me to take,” she explained.
Morgan said Tennessee was tied with Alabama with the most prescriptions written for patients.
“Per 100 people, 143 prescriptions are written,” she said.
Milam said unfortunately the crash served as an important safety reminder.
“To be careful, I mean I’m on prescription medication as well,” she said. “I need to be careful getting behind the wheel of a car as well.”
If you or someone you know is not using their medication as directed and may need help, you can call Addiction Campuses’ 24/7 at 1-888-614-2251 or you can chat with them online at www.addictioncampuses.com.
This week is also Child Passenger Safety Week.
The Memphis Police Department will be checking booster and car seats this Saturday at the Shelby County Schools parking lot.
That’s at 160 S. Hollywood from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
The event is free.