Driver to share first-hand story at teen event

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stories told of death at the hands of a drunk driver are most often told by family members and friends of the victims. Not often does the public have an opportunity to hear “the rest of the story.”

Those who attend the fourth annual County Teen Safe Driving Event Friday night at Cattleman Park will have the opportunity to hear the story from the driver who caused the deaths of two young women.

Jennifer C. Garrett, event organizer, said it is important for young people to know and realize that the driver who causes a deadly accident and his or her family suffer dire consequences, also.

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“Drunk driving is the focus of this year’s Teen Safe Driving Event,” Garrett said. “Renee Napier, founder of The Meagan Napier Foundation, will be a featured speaker. Her daughter, Meagan, and a friend, Lisa Dickson, were killed when their vehicle was struck by a Jeep driven by Eric Smallridge, who will also be a featured speaker. Their stories of heartache and forgiveness are mixed into one.”

Garrett said, on May 11, 2002, Smallridge made a decision to drink and drive. That decision was a deadly one.

Smallridge’s Jeep hit the rear end of the women’s vehicle sending it smashing into a tree.

“His decision to drink and drive forever changed the lives of many people,” Garrett said. “Tragically, the crash that took the lives of two young women could have been avoided.” Smallridge was sentenced to 22 years in a Florida Correctional Institution. His life that was filled with opportunity and promise had come to an end. In a split second, everything changed.

After the death of her daughter, Renee Napier became actively passionate about saving lives.

She founded The Meagan Napier Foundation, which raises awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and promotes forgiveness and healing.

“Renee Napier has made it her mission to share the story of her daughter’s death with as many people as possible,” Garrett said. “She also talks about forgiveness and the role it plays in dealing with the death of a loved one when another person is responsible. She has forgiven Eric and gives him the opportunity to share his testimony in hopes that it will cause young people to think twice before driving under the influence.”

Smallridge paints a vivid picture of prison life and tells of the agony of living with the knowledge that he caused the death of two young women.

Smallridge cautions that what happened to him could happen to anyone who gets behind the wheel of an automobile while under the influence.

“Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge will hopefully make teens think twice before they drink and drive or ride with someone who is,” Garrett said. “If their stories can save one life, what a blessing that will be.”

Assistant District Attorney Jon Folmar will also be a featured speaker. He will speak on Alabama’s DUI law.

“We’ll have several local agencies that will have informational booths set up, including the Troy Fire Department, Troy Police Department, Pike County Sheriff’s Department, East Central Mental Heath Children’s Services, Boys and Girls Club and the Alabama ABC Board.

“Our goal is to show kids and adults that every decision people make while driving affects more than just them,” Garrett said. “We invited people of all ages to come.”

The doors at Cattleman Park will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday and the program will begin at 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Sponsors of this year’s event include Horn Beverage, Griffin & Wilkes Insurance, the UPS Store, and the Pike County Cattleman’s Association.

For more information about the project, email or visit