Going the Extra Mile
September 19, 2014
Originally featured in the 2014 summer edition of MADDvocate®.
Alarmingly, MADD is receiving an increase in calls about children riding with substance-impaired drivers. When a minor is placed in jeopardy of physical, moral or mental well-being, that’s child endangerment, and it’s a very serious problem.
Many of the callers are grandparents who play an important part in the lives of their grandchildren. They want to do everything possible to protect them. But grandparents sometimes feel helpless when their grandchildren are in danger.
A Family in Crisis
Ellen Pitt from western North Carolina became an advocate for children in these situations while fighting to protect her own granddaughter.
At age 7, Ellen’s granddaughter began to tell her that she was afraid to ride with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend because he was usually drunk and sometimes, so was her mother. She would talk about being on the interstate late at night and seeing the “speed thing saying 90.”
Ellen’s son and daughter-in-law, both of whom were partygoers, had separated when the child was 3 years old. The daughter-in-law frequently had people in her home drinking and using drugs.
Ellen knew she had to do something to protect her granddaughter. So she called child protective services (CPS) but was passed from one person to another. She talked to the district attorney’s office and was referred back to CPS. The situation seemed hopeless.
“I was staying awake every night, even though I worked full time, driving through bar parking lots, calling everywhere, and crying myself to sleep,” Ellen says. “When [my granddaughter] wasn’t with me, I became more and more terrified. My son was drinking too, and I felt I had nowhere to turn.”
Read the rest of Ellen’s story and find out what she is doing now with MADD to protect all children from drunk driving in the MADDvocate.
September 18, 2014
Power of Parents
by 15 year old Sarah Haiken, a member of MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group
My name is Sarah Haiken and I am a 15 year old Junior from New York. While getting back into my school routine, the nerves of being accepted have arrived. I am often anxious that my strict views on underage drinking will cause my peers to make me an outcast. However, I have learned to control this fear by avoiding situations where alcohol may be involved. I do this by having a code word with my parents. Whenever I don't feel comfortable somewhere, I can text or call my parents saying the code word and they know to pick me up. This allows me to blame my parents for not doing something I don't feel comfortable with, and my peers cannot pressure me or make fun of me for it. It's the perfect way for me to get out of a situation without feeling "uncool."
Tips to Protect Children from Drunk Driving
September 17, 2014
Children are our greatest resource and our future. That’s why MADD is taking action to help protect the children who are needlessly put in danger every day in this country.
While drunk driving is recognized as a violent crime, driving impaired with child passengers is not commonly acknowledged as a form of child endangerment or child abuse. No one should have to ride with an impaired driver. However, children have little choice when the driver is a parent or an adult caregiver.
If you see an adult who is visibly impaired attempting to drive with a child in the car:
- Calmly suggest alternative transportation, recommend the driver postpone travel or offer to drive the child, if appropriate. Avoid a heated altercation that can put the child in further danger.
- Call 911 at the time of the incident with as much information as possible (such as name of the driver, vehicle description and/or license plate, and destination). Also be sure to give them your name and contact information for responding officers.
- Document the situation so that your notes can be used later.
- Notify another parent or caregiver of the situation.
- Teach children techniques for keeping themselves safe if they are ever forced to ride with an impaired driver (see below).
- Report your concerns to state or local child protective agencies.
Here are some tips you can teach your kids or a child you know who might find themselves in a situation where they are riding with a drinking driver:
- Sit in the back seat.
- Buckle-up tight and use your booster seat, if needed.
- Put all of your belongings on the floor.
- Do not bother the driver and stay quiet.
- Tell a trusted grown-up immediately about any unsafe ride.