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DEADLY DRIVING LAWS PT. 1: Lincoln Family Reflects on Loss, Laws 

A Lincoln family lost their loved one in a car crash that could have been prevented.

More than a year later, they’re reflecting on state laws and pushing for change in their relative’s memory.

Caitlin Burchill has more.
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For JoAnne Hinkelman, there’s a noticeably empty chair at her kitchen table in Lincoln.

It’s where her oldest daughter Karla Kenniston should be sitting.

“You’ll still expect to see her to pop in or to give you a telephone call to keep in touch and then you realize this is not going to happen so,” she said.

Kenniston was killed in a head-on crash in Enfield in November 2014.

“We were going to a craft fair. Just out for a nice day. We all like to hang out together and next thing you know, we’re all in a horrific accident,” said Kenniston’s youngest sister Kathi Hinkelman-Emery.

Kenniston died from the impact. Her younger sister Kristi Birmingham was hospitalized for more than two weeks.

Hinkelman-Emery and their mother suffered injuries too.

“When I came to, I looked over and I knew she was dead immediately. I tried to reach out to her but I couldn’t because I was injured. That image will never go away,” said Hinkelman.

The 64-year-old had just recently moved back to Lincoln from southern Maine with her special needs son, in part, to be closer to her mother and sisters Kristi and Kathi.

The “3Ks,” as they were called, all back together again.

They even lived on the same street.

“She was so talented and that’s gone. We thought she’d grow old with us. I can’t talk about it without crying,” said Birmingham.

About a year and a half after the crash, the driver of the other SUV Katie Drost of Howland pled no contest to a civil charge of a motor vehicle violation resulting in death.

Officials say she failed to yield.

Drost lost her license for three years and was fined $4,000.

“I don’t think the punishment you received today is anywhere near the value of my sister’s life and what it has done to our family,” said Birmingham at the sentencing.

Kenniston’s family spoke in court and to TV5 about what they say is an unjust penalty.

“You can kill a moose out of season and you get jail time. You can kill a bald eagle and get jail time. A human being. Nothing,” said Birmingham.

The maximum sentence under this statute is a $5,000 fine and a 4 year loss of license.

“I feel that it should be changed when a death is involved. There should be more impact on the person that caused the tragedy,” said Hinkelman.

Adding to their pain, the driver at fault didn’t have insurance.

Leaving them with lingering medical bills.

“The bottom line is, she didn’t have insurance, so she shouldn’t have been driving, and therefore Karla wouldn’t be killed if the laws were different,” said Hinkelman-Emery.

Kenniston’s family tells TV5 they plan to write to state lawmakers.

Had this crash happened before 2009, there would have been even less punishment.

The civil statute for motor vehicle violation resulting in death didn’t even exist.

The driver would have most likely paid a little over one hundred dollars for a traffic violation.

For more about the legislation, click here to watch part 2 of this special series.