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'It helps keep the memory alive': Parents of ND family that died in drunk-driving crash get award for awareness work

From left, Lynn and Donna Mickelson and Tom and Arlene Deutscher. Special to The Forum

FARGO — It's been more than six years since Aaron and Allison Deutscher and their 1-year-old daughter, Brielle, died in a collision with a drunk driver. Now, Aaron and Allison's families are getting national recognition for the work they've done in spreading awareness about drunken and distracted driving.

Aaron's parents, Tom and Arlene Deutscher, and Allison's parents, Lynn and Donna Mickelson, received the Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award from the Governor's Highway Safety Association late last month.

The award is given to people or programs that do work on highway safety, and the two families were nominated by the North Dakota Department of Transportation. They are the first North Dakotans to win the award.

Both the Deutschers, of Bismarck, and Mickelsons, of Colfax, said being nominated was surprising and humbling.

"It helps keep the memory alive for us," Arlene Deutscher said.

Consequences

Aaron, 34, and Allison Deutscher, 36, both of West Fargo, and their daughter Brielle died July 6, 2012, on Interstate 94 in a crash caused by a drunken driver. Allison was pregnant at the time.

Since that day, the Deutschers and Mickelsons have dedicated their lives to spreading the word about the consequences of drunken and distracted driving.

In 2012, the Deutschers participated in a public service video by NDDOT that spoke to the effect the crash had on their life.

The North Dakota House passed a bill in 2013 called "Brielle's Law" that increased penalties for DUI offenders, criminalized testing refusal and enacted mandatory participation for repeat offenders in the 24/7 Sobriety Program, a program that requires offenders to report twice a day to a law enforcement center and blow into a device to prove they are sober.

The Deutschers also began an annual fundraising marathon in Bismarck called "Run 4 Change" in memory of Allison, who Arlene said liked to run. She said the event gets runners from all over the state and even South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.

Lynn Mickelson takes Allison and Aaron's crashed car around North Dakota and parts of western Minnesota and does presentations with it.

The message isn't to preach or lecture about alcohol, Mickelson said. It's to tell people to make smart and right decisions and to show them the consequences of a wrong choice, he said.

Mickelson said the car is presented primarily at schools, but it's also been to the National Guard in Bismarck and some car manufacturing companies.

The car has been to about 70 schools, he said.

Mickelson said the programs that he, his wife and the Deutschers do isn't for the awards. Instead, it's all meant to raise awareness.

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