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Don’t let the promise of summer end in tragedy. Whether it’s young adults using prom and graduation as a launch pad to the beach, or families loading their cars for long awaited vacations, summertime is a catalyst for lifelong memories. However, summer is also one of the deadliest times of the year on our highways.
On land and on sea, there are measures you can take to ensure safe and happy times instead of sadness. First, plan ahead. If alcohol is part of your plan, a designated driver, a taxi, Uber, public transportation or a designated non-drinking driver should be as well. As a parent, talk to your children about the dangers of alcohol. Set a good example too. And that goes for friends as well.
General car safety should be part of the plan too. Wear your seatbelt. Don’t speed. And for young drivers, don’t travel with too many passengers in the car with you. Whether it’s a friend or a text, distracted driving is dangerous.
And, for the saem reason, boating is often left out of the conversation. But many of the same rules apply. The most important one concerns alcohol. If you’re going to operate a boat, don’t drink. It’s illegal… but more importantly, it’s deadly dangerous.
Following a few simple rules can make your summer one to remember… for all the right reasons.
Have a safe and relaxing summer!
A West Virginia Law Enforcement Officer wrote President Colleen Sheehey-Church a heartfelt letter about how her presentation at a recent conference renewed his drive to fight drunk driving. Read below:
Let me start this by telling you a little about myself. I have been employed by County Sheriff's Department in West Virginia for almost 15 years. Before that, I was a city patrolman in a nearby small city for two years. So all together, I have been working on the road as a police officer or deputy for almost 17 years.
During that 17 years, I have always been very active in traffic enforcement and arresting DUI's. I can't tell you for sure how many DUI's I have arrested over time, but, if I haven't surpassed 1,000 DUI arrests by now, I am very close to it. During the last year (2016) and into this year (2017), that non-stop drive to always be stopping cars and arresting DUI's has started to slip some. Don't get me wrong, I still make the arrests. I find that I'm just not the guy out there every night looking for offenders left and right, making DUI arrests every night over the last year and a half as I was before.
Now, lets jump to the 2017 West Virginia Highway 2 Enforcement Conference. I was attending this years conference with the lowest number of DUI arrests I have ever had in a year. As I sat in the room and listened to your keynote address to us, I really listened to what you were saying and the story you told about your son Dustin.
I can relate to your story a little. I did not have a son that was killed by an impaired driver. However, I did have a father that was killed by a drugged driver. The women who rear-ended him was high on OxyContin and marijuana at the time of the crash. This was enough to motivate me to get into the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) school and complete it to become one of the DRE's for my area.
Like my job, I'm sure you put in countless hours for very little pay or respect and might sometimes wonder if what you say gets through to anyone.
I don't know how many people were in the room when you were giving your speech in West Virginia on the 25th of May 2017, but I just want you to know you got through to at least one person. You can consider me motivated to continue the fight against impaired driving until the last day I put my vest on and put a gun belt around my waist.
I know what happened to your son and my father can never be changed, but I hope in doing my job I can keep someone else from having to go through the tragedies we share. I want to thank you for the job you do with MADD. Please never think that what you do always falls on deaf ears. If you only reach one or two people every time you give a speech to law enforcement officers and motivate them to get more active with impaired driving enforcement, it is worth it. The one or two officers you reach might be the officers who stop the car that is about to turn someone's life upside down and inside out.
- From a member of the West Virginia Law Enforcement
Skip Church, MADD President Colleen Sheehey-Church's husband offers his perspective on the tragic events and death of their son Dustin. Read below:
While the name of the organization seems to focus on one member of the family unit, “Mothers” Against Drunk Driving has a poignant understanding that this horrible crime effects everyone in the family as well as friends and the community. Dads are in that group. My wife Colleen, the National President of MADD, is always cognizant of the agonizing reach that drunk driving has in our country and shows the compassion and empathy necessary to talk with victims, law enforcement and legislators around the country.
When our son Dustin was killed by a drunk and drugged driver, our lives changed… forever. Family gatherings are always missing someone. There is always an empty chair at Thanksgiving. And still, to this day, 13 years after his death, I stir my coffee each morning with a spoon that Dustin gave me. There is nothing that makes that horrible tragedy better, nothing that makes it go away, nothing that allows us to forget.
Colleen has done remarkable work nationwide, even traveling to Brazil to be a keynote speaker at an international conference. In Connecticut, I’ve worked with the tremendous staff at the state office to change our drunk driving laws. In the last decade, we have transformed the state from one of MADD’s “Fatal 15” into a state that has all offender ignition interlock and dui child endangerment. We give ignition interlock seminars to law enforcement officers and the judicial branch. And we continue to work on other legislation that will tighten the noose around drunk driving.
Will you join us?
Still, Dustin is dead and we are sad. That will never change. So, if I were to give advice, I would tell fathers on this Father’s Day to give their children a big kiss and a hug and at every opportunity to make their kids aware of the dangers of drunk driving. To those fathers who have lost a child, I reach out to you with a hug and ask you to make a difference… change the laws… change the culture… change the future… so that one day there will be NO MORE VICTIMS®.
- William "Skip" Church
If you want to join us and be a part of the difference, you can get involved today!
At nine months of age, a baby builds trillions of brain connections, becomes a master crawler and, often, starts transforming mindless babbling into words like "dada." First steps are right around the corner!
Unfortunately, my first husband Mike never experienced these wonderful milestones. A drunk driver with a BAC of .34 and an empty bottle of whiskey in his car hit him head on, killing Mike, when our daughter, Tara, was only eight months old.
Drunk driving changed my daughter's life forever. Far too often, it decimates families. We MUST end this violent crime. Because on a daily basis, it robs children of their parents.
Since Mike's preventable death, drunk driving has killed roughly 260,000 people and injured 7.5 million others. Repeatedly, I see people shrug off the seriousness of this crime, claim "everyone does it" or discount it as an "accident."
Drunk driving isn't cancer. It isn't something that randomly happens. Together, we can stop it. We can pass laws that demand offenders face the consequences of their actions. We can support victims in their darkest hour. And we can turn the idea of No More Victims® into a concrete reality through law enforcement and advanced technology.
This is what Mothers Against Drunk Driving will do with your lifesaving and compassionate gift. They stretch the funds to maximize the good it can achieve. I witnessed it firsthand as National President from 2008 to 2011 and now as a volunteer. I see just how much MADD does with so very little.
Today, I ask you to join me by making a gift in the name of all fathers. They are too precious to simply ignore.
Thank you for your generosity,
P.S. If you have ever felt compelled to donate to MADD, please consider doing so today. It means so much to victims like myself.