Family of man killed by impaired driver brings awareness to specialty license plates

Nearly one out of every four deaths that occur on Minnesota roads are due to drunk driving.

For those who want to remind other drivers of the risk of driving impaired, there’s a special license plate you can purchase, but not many people are opting for it.

When you register your tabs at Driver Vehicle Serivces, there are about 100 different plates from which to choose. For only $10, you can get a plate that dons a broken heart.

For most people, the holidays are about family and cheer, but for the Degnan family, there’s very little of either.

“It was a terribly cold night the night Dan died so I think with the darkness and the cold weather, it’s tough for Barb,” said John Degnan, whose step-son was killed by an impaired driver.

“When the evening starts and it gets dark—you know, this time of year, it’s just this feeling of emptiness,” added Barb Degnan.

The emptiness is because Christmas Eve was the day they learned their son Dan had been killed by an impaired driver.

“That’s what the victims—the mothers, the sisters, the brothers, the families live with the rest of their lives,” Barb said.

On behalf of all families who have lost loved ones, the Degnans took their broken heart to the State Capitol. In 2010, a specialized license plate was approved.

“We always call it 'Dan’s plate,'” John said.

Eight years later, the Department of Public Safety says there’s only about 1,600 of the specialized plates on the road, compared to the more than 13,000 plates given to DWI offenders.

“Sometimes you get a thumbs up and a lot of times when they see them, they ask how they can get one,” John said.

Barb would like more people to know the plates are available.

“It’s to remind people to not drive impaired because someone is going to be heartbroken,” Barb said.

The Degnans hope the more drivers see Dan’s plates, the more they’ll be inclined to keep their eyes on the road and find a sober ride home.

“There won’t be enough until I see the majority of cars with them,” Barb said.

The broken heart plate, for victims of impaired drivers, costs only $10 and there is no annual fee like the rest of the plates.