Tucson motorists have thousands of reasons not to drink and drive this holiday season.

A first-time DUI conviction typically costs several thousand dollars just for court fines and fees — and the tab can easily double when attorney bills, higher insurance rates and lost wages during a jail stay are factored in, according to the local office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“A first DUI can cost around $8,000,” once peripheral costs are tacked on to the $3,200 typical minimum penalty, said Southern Arizona MADD spokeswoman Bevery Mason-Biggers.

If the financial wallop isn’t sobering enough, drunken-driving victims like Valerie Savedra of Tucson hope holiday revelers will stop to consider the potential human cost.

Savedra, now 49, was gravely injured at age 10 and watched her 10-year-old cousin die next to her after a head-on crash with a drunken driver on the way to a family gathering.

The 1977 accident led to a lifetime of pain from degenerative conditions in her legs, which sustained multiple fractures.

“The doctors have said there’s an amputation in my future,” says Savedra, a mother of four, who still struggles with guilt feelings for surviving the crash when her same-age cousin didn’t.

Now Savedra volunteers on a MADD crisis hotline, trying to comfort others harmed by drunken drivers.

Often, callers are so overcome with grief that “I just let them cry,” she says.

“Everyone thinks it’s not going to happen to them,” she says of an impaired person’s decision to get behind the wheel.

“If you want to go out and have a good time, do it.

“Just make sure to get a ride home so maybe someone like me won’t have to suffer.”

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at 573-4138 or calaimo@tucson.com. On Twitter: @StarHigherEd

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