Ray Olson’s memory may save lives as Richmond looks to curb holiday DUIs

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Hilltop memorial makes national news

Ray Jay Olson’s memory lives on in a recently-constructed memorial park in Richmond’s Hilltop neighborhood — and now it may save lives.

At Tuesday’s Richmond City Council meeting, Mayor Tom Butt read a proclamation declaring Nov. 30 as Raymond Olson Day in the city. The mayor said he hoped the designation will serve as an important public reminder about the dangers of drinking and driving this holiday season.

Olson died at age 22 on Nov. 30, 2003. He was the passenger of a vehicle involved in a drunken driving-related crash on San Pablo Avenue near Richmond Parkway.

For 13 years after his death, Olson’s loved ones maintained a memorial at the site where he was killed, which is near an interconnect station owned by Chevron. Touched by the gesture, Chevron officials teamed with city staff and the Hilltop neighborhood association to make Olson’s memorial everlasting.

In conjunction with an upgrade of the interconnect station, the company set aside land on the property for the development of a quiet and attractive memorial park that includes a memorial plaque alongside a new bench, as well as crosswalks, lighting, landscaping and ADA-accessible sidewalks. While Chevron still owns the property, it is maintained by the city for public use.

In August, the memorial was celebrated at an emotional ceremony (as seen in above video) that included Olson’s family and Richmond and Chevron representatives. Mayor Butt hopes the memorial will offer a warning to drivers during the holidays.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 40 percent of fatal auto accidents during the holiday season are caused by drunk driving,” Mayor Butt said at Tuesday’s council hearing, reading from the proclamation.

Nearly 730 people are estimated to be injured or killed every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, a rate that is two to three times higher that the rest of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Motorists should avoid drinking and driving this holiday season, and should take extra precautions to keep everyone safe including identifying a plan, selecting designated drivers and using public transportation, a taxi, or ride-sharing services,” Butt said.

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