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Anti-Drinking & Driving Advocates Say DUIs Impact Communities

A community mourns the tragic deaths of three sisters who were killed by a suspected drunk driver two weeks ago. The sisters, who were in their 70's, were laid to rest in Sanger.

Three sisters who were killed by a suspected drunk driver two weeks ago were laid to rest in Sanger on Tuesday.

Family and friends paid their last respects to Jennie Monreal, 73, Josephine Contreras, 72, and Delores Rodriguez, 70.

Their sister, 67-year old Elizabeth Rodriguez, was driving and survived.

A Sanger man, 56-year old Tranquilino Figueroa has been charged with drunk driving, hit and run and driving with a suspended license.

Police say he was driving his van on the wrong side of McCall and hit the other car head-on.

Now, a community mourns their tragic death, impacting even those who didn't know the victims.

"Seeing the three hearses, three ladies who were killed--it's a tragic reminder not only for our community, but just for the state, for anybody," says Sanger resident James Bennett outside the funeral at St. Mary's Church in Sanger.

Each year, 17,000 people die each year in the U.S. from DUI-related crashes, according to the California Highway Patrol.

"One DUI can actually impact, not just one person, but a whole entire community," says Johnny Fisher, public information officer with the CHP.

A DUI doesn't only affect the driver, and the repercussions can follow the driver for the rest of his or her life.    

"The court costs, the DUI schools--those things are relatively constant. But it's the insurance costs, and maybe loss of a job" says Fresno DUI defense attorney as he lists the factors that contribute to a high cost for a DUI charge or conviction.

Recent DUI fatalities are a reminder of the dangers of driving under the influence.

On a state level, over the weekend, a 21-year-old alleged drunk driver going the wrong way on an LA County highway is suspected of killing six people, including the driver's own sister.

"You're in a 4,000 pound death machine, that one wrong move and one split second can be the last that somebody else is going to have," Fisher says.

Anti-drinking and driving advocates estimate the average cost of a DUI to be about $10,000 that the driver pays for through attorney fees, penalties, increased insurance rates, etc.

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