Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mother and inmate raise awareness of drinking and driving


In May 2002, Eric Smallridge was a college student with big plans for his future.

The 24-year-old was athletic, popular and soon to be engaged.

Today, he's a prison inmate with a message for young people: Don't drink and drive.

"Don't throw it all away," said Smallridge, shackled hand and foot during a talk to Largo High School students Monday. "Don't risk it all by something avoidable."

Now 33, Smallridge was sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2003 after he was convicted of two counts of driving-under-the-influence manslaughter. Early on May 11, 2002 — the day before Mother's Day — Smallridge slammed into a gold Mazda carrying Meagan Napier and Lisa Jo Dickson in Gulf Breeze in the Panhandle.

Napier and Dickson, both 20-year-old college students and best friends, died at the scene. Smallridge had a blood alcohol level more than twice the limit at which a driver is presumed impaired in Florida.

On Monday, Smallridge joined Napier's mother, Renee Napier, who has made it her mission to educate as many young people as possible about the consequences of driving while intoxicated. Napier said she was able to forgive the man who killed her daughter after he apologized and took responsibility for his actions.

The two are giving a series of presentations in Pinellas County schools this month with the help of Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats, who arranged for Smallridge's transport from a Panhandle prison and his temporary housing at the county jail.

Napier, 52, of Treasure Island, urged the students to use a designated driver or to call their parents if they find themselves in a situation where they, or their friends, can't drive. Don't worry that mom or dad will be angry over coming to get you, she said.

"They'd rather do that than get that knock at the door that tells them you're never coming home. Trust me," she said.

The message is especially important since Largo's prom is this weekend.

"We just want you all to make it back to school on that Monday after prom," Napier said.

Dozens of students crowded around Napier and Smallridge after the assembly to ask questions or thank them for sharing their story. Several teens hugged Smallridge, who wore a blue jumpsuit and was guarded by three deputies.

"It was very deep," said 17-year-old Brian Castle. "You don't realize how quickly things can spiral out of control, so you should think through all of your decisions."

Several students vowed afterward that they would never drink and drive. But many said they hoped their fellow students took the message to heart.

"I know so many kids who do this," said Shibovan Regan, an 18-year-old senior. "They think it's cool, and it's not."

In 2006, a judge agreed to let Smallridge serve his two 11-year sentences concurrently, which makes him eligible for release in 2012. He plans on continuing the speaking engagements with Napier once he gets out, he said.

"It's kind of humiliating to show people what I've been reduced to," he said. "But if it changes one person's mind, save's one person's grief, it was worth it."


More information

To learn more about the Meagan Napier Foundation, a nonprofit created to raise awareness about the dangers of driving under the influence, visit the website at

Mother and inmate raise awareness of drinking and driving 05/09/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 9, 2011 11:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign


    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home


    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence


    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”