Lexington woman critically injured in DUI crash urges use of sober drivers on NYE

Published: Dec. 31, 2019 at 7:08 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - A Lexington woman who was critically injured by an impaired driver in 2018 is urging New Year’s Eve partygoers to take advantage of sober rides home.

Megan Diffee suffered life-threatening injuries when she was hit by Joseph Swearingen III, 24, on U.S. 1 in Lexington as she was traveling toward I-20 in May of 2018. Investigators said Swearingen was driving 60 miles per hour down the middle turn lane of U.S. 1, before veering off to the left and striking Diffee, who was traveling in the slow lane. The crash then caused the car traveling behind Diffee to rear-end her car.

Diffee suffered several injuries including multiple skull fractures, damage in both carotid arteries, a broken arm, bruised lungs, two broken legs, a broken ankle, and a broken foot.

A year and a half after the crash, she continues to recover.

“This has put me in a place to where the things I thought were my plan, and the things I had hoped for, I don’t know are possible anymore,” Diffee said.

While much of her rehabilitation is complete, she still suffers from mental, physical and emotional scars from the crash.

“I have a hard time even believing it’s me,” Diffee said as she looked at photographs of herself in the days following the crash. “I recognize that it’s me, but it looks nothing like me.”

2019 has been a big year for Diffee. She completed her final eye surgery needed to correct her vision which was damaged during the crash. She also saw Swearingen sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to Felony DUI with great bodily injury. But perhaps most exciting of all, she regained her independence behind the wheel.

“It was really exciting, I’ve always been independent so it was kind of like being 15 again,” she said.

Diffee was given the all-clear by doctors to begin driving again in August.

Simple trips to the gym or store used to require the help of someone else. Now, Diffee said she’s able to do those things independently and she’s enjoying it.

The crash site is only a few miles from her home in Lexington and she said she travels by it regularly. She said initially she tried to avoid it but realized there was nothing to be afraid of.

“There’s not a cross there with my name on it, my life didn’t end there,” she said. “So I don’t want that to hang over me.”

However, she said, she will not travel in the far right lane, the same lane she was struck in.

As she continues to adjust to life outside of the hospital and physical therapy, she doesn’t like the term “new normal.”

“I hate that phrase,” she said. “It’s probably because I didn’t choose this. It’s different if you choose a new normal.”

Diffee urges those who may consider driving under the influence to think twice and order a cab or a ride from a ride-sharing company.

“Ultimately, it’s a choice,” she said. “It’s not a mistake, it’s a choice that you make. It can destroy someone’s life or your own.”

Diffee said the impacts of a crash as the result of an impaired driver reach far beyond those directly involved. Family, friends and the community can feel the long-lasting effects of the crash.

“You can’t just put things back in place,” she said. “It doesn’t work like that.”

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