Pasco man survives head on crash with wrong way DUI driver

He's now fighting for stricter DUI penalties

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A Pasco County man survived a crash after being hit head-on by a wrong-way driver. Troopers charged the driver with DUI and believe he was impaired by drugs.

Overcome with emotion, Jim Swope recounted the scariest moment of his life.

“He veered sharp and he was headed straight for me,” he said fighting back tears.

Sitting in the left-hand turn lane last Wednesday just before 7:30 a.m. at Southbound US-19 and Darlington Road, Swope remembers seeing a car barreling towards him. It was headed the wrong way down US-19.

“I had no time to move out of the way. He hit me pretty much head on,” Swope recounted, tears running down his cheeks. 

Swope's thoughts immediately turned to his wife, Carol. She died six years ago, and Swope thought…his time had come, too.

“I thought I’ll be coming to see her in a few minutes, but that wasn’t to be,” he said.

Paramedics cut him out of this car then rushed him to the emergency room at Bayonet Point Hospital with five broken ribs, two spinal fractures and a gashed leg. 

FHP arrested the 20-year-old driver that hit him, Rashad Xavier Wesley, for DUI, and troopers suspect he had drugs in his system at the time of the crash.

"There’s just no excuse for it, it’s like a loaded gun,” Swope said referring to the dangers of impaired drivers. 

He's now fighting for stricter penalties for DUI drivers, including a push for first-time offenders with alcohol in their system to install an ignition interlock device in their cars. 88% of states in the US require them, but Florida isn’t one. There’s also no minimum sentence for first time DUI offenders. 

“Somebody is letting these people off easy. I think they ought to get slammed first offense mandatory prison. You gotta come down hard on these people or they’ll be right back," Swope explained.

As Swope struggles to recover, he worries without change, the next innocent driver won’t be as lucky.

“It’s just a matter of degrees and my life could have been over.”

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