LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Given the fact her jaw had to be completely rebuilt with metal screws and plates, it’s probably not so easy for Alex Otte to smile. But these days, it’s worth the effort for the University of Kentucky graduate.
Inside President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill is legislation dedicated to keeping drunken people from driving cars. Beginning in 2026, automakers will be required to add sensors to their vehicles that’ll detect drowsiness, distracted driving, and whether or not a driver has been too impaired by alcohol to operate a vehicle safely.
The last item hits home both personally and professionally for Otte. At 24 years old, she’s in her 10th month as President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). She’s 11 years removed from nearly being killed by a drunken boater on Herrington Lake.
“When I was loaded into the helicopter (after the crash), my parents were told to say goodbye because there was no hope of me surviving the ride from Herrington Lake to UK,” she said.
Otte suffered brain injuries, a broken neck, lacerated liver, leg, and facial fractures. She needed a partial leg amputation, and for ten years, she averaged at least one surgery annually since that boat slammed into her jet ski. Doctors told her she made a miraculous recovery, and thanks to her father, she decided to do something with the opportunity.
“My dad had a conversation with me when I was in the hospital that everything that happened to that point was Sammy Heckler’s choice – the man who ran me over – and that everything that happens now is up to me,” she recalled.
The legislation is something MADD officials have been wanting for years, but President Otte will get the credit for helping to pass it through Congress since it happened on her watch.
“I actually had an opportunity to meet with the president and have conversations with him. My last comment to him was, ‘I really hope this won’t be the only presidential bill-signing of my term,” she explained of her meeting earlier this year with President Biden. Otte was in Washington for the signing of a bill to extend funding for “VOCA,” the Victims of Crime Act. She said President Biden told her he hoped it wouldn’t be her last bill signing either.
The infrastructure bill could be signed as early as next week. And Otte is hoping to become the first MADD president to witness two bill signings in the White House.
“I’m in Dallas today, and I have more presentations on the road next week, so hopefully, I can be there for it,” she said.
Whether she’s there or spreading the message elsewhere, she will be smiling when President Biden’s pen meets paper, even if a smile causes a little pain.