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Drunk Driving’s Ripple Effect

I recently received an email from one of our incredible MADD supporters sharing why she chose to make a donation to MADD. I was very touched by her letter, so I asked Charmayne if she would allow us to share it on our blog.

Her letter shows us how the aftermath of a drunk driving crash creates a ripple effect. It doesn’t just impact the victim or survivor, but friends and members of the community – whether they know the victim or not.


Dear Colleen,

Each time that I have sent a donation to MADD, it was because a friend or an acquaintance had been killed shortly before your request arrived. One year it was a dear friend my husband and I knew years before when he was assisting the police to track down drug dealers. He was in his place of business where he had an area for living quarters when he was working late. At 2 a.m., while he was sleeping, a drunken driver crashed into his building and killed him. I was devastated. A good friend, 57 years old, was now dead.

The next time, it was a parishioner at church who came in crying and sat next to me. When the service ended, I learned that she was upset because her brother, under 40 years old, had been killed by a drunk driver. I went home and donated.

This time, it was a bicyclist who was in his "bike lane," but the lane was separated from the auto lane only by a stripe on the street. The drunken woman was driving AND texting on her phone, crossed over the stripe on the street, hit him from behind, throwing his body on the hood of her vehicle, breaking the windshield and then dumping him onto the street. He was 41 years old with two pre-school children and a wife. He died from that impact. Today was my donation day.

I don't believe it will be necessary for me to have another death by a drunk driver to continue sending a donation to help your cause. I admire the work you are doing. Let's keep doing the things you do to help the family members of those who have lost their life because drivers do not respect the others in their path. They really don't respect themselves either, or they would not drink AND DRIVE.          

Love,

Charmayne Dierker
Kent County, Maryland

We are so grateful for all of MADD’s supporters who make MADD’s lifesaving work possible.


What is BAC?

Originally featured in the 2014 fall edition of MADDvocate.

It’s becoming more common to find breath testing devices used to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in bars and in private homes thanks to modern technology. But what is BAC and should you rely on these types of devices to determine whether you are sober enough to drive home?

BAC refers to the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. It is measured as weight of alcohol per unit of volume of blood. Typically this measurement is converted to a percentage such as .10 percent, which means that one-tenth of a percent of a person’s blood is alcohol. The legal BAC limit throughout the United States is .08, although laws and penalties vary among states. Alcohol, which is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, can be measured within 30 to 70 minutes after a person has had a drink.

According to Jim Fell, senior research scientist with the Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation, how quickly your BAC rises depends on a variety of factors including the number of drinks you have, how fast you drink, your gender, your age, your weight and whether you have food in your stomach.

Still, the more you drink the more steadily your ability to safely drive a motor vehicle decreases. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the risk of a driver with BAC between .08 and .10 having a fatal single-vehicle crash is at least 11 times greater than for drivers with a BAC of zero.

Still the Safest Course: Planning Ahead

Given the danger of driving under the influence, should you rely on personal BAC testing devices to determine whether you are below the legal limit? While the idea may seem like a good one, MADD does not support the use of personal alcohol tests to help drivers make decisions about their ability to drive after consuming alcohol.

Here’s why.

First, many personal BAC testing devices may not be accurate. Less expensive breath testers use semiconductor sensors rather than the more expensive fuel cell sensors in most commercial-grade breath testers used by law enforcement. This has caused some worry about reliability.

Additionally, commercial -grade devices (used by the police) are checked and maintained regularly, something that may not be happening with personal testers.

Second, if you measure your BAC in a bar and the reading comes up .06, you may think you’re fine to have one more drink, which can end up being a big mistake. Impairment begins with the first drink, so it’s always dangerous to try to stay “one sip under the limit.”

Finally, BAC climbs with time after consuming alcohol until you stop. If you consume several shots of alcohol and test your BAC immediately after having those drinks, the reading could be under the limit, but in 30 minutes, the likelihood is that the reading will be much higher. Making choices about drinking and driving based on personal alcohol testing is dangerous even if the intention is good. That’s why planning ahead is vitally important. If you’re going to drink, the only safe course of action is to plan for a safe way home before you start drinking, whether it’s a non-drinking designated driver, a cab, a car service or public transportation.


A Busy Start to Our 35th Anniversary Year

It’s been a busy start to our 35th Anniversary year. State Legislatures are in session around the country and many are considering stronger laws concerning drunk and drugged driving. During the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with lawmakers in Colorado, Kentucky and Pennsylvania – with more states to come. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® with those who can help make it happen.

It is also given me the chance to meet with people like you who support MADD with their time, their effort and their money.  Each one left a lasting impression that I won’t soon forget.

I’ll remember the victims I met. In Kentucky, I’ll remember MADD National Teen Influencer group Alex Otto and her story of how she suffered a brain injury and lost her leg in a boating crash caused by a drunk boater. In Pennsylvania, I’ll remember the parents of Fire Chief Rodney Paul Miller who was killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver.

I’ll also remember the volunteers and supporters. In Colorado, I had the opportunity to meet and thank Darin Schanker for the thousands of hours and dollars his law firm has donated to MADD. In Kentucky, I was amazed at the incredible devotion of MADD’s victim services staff.

I’ll remember each and every face of the victims, the volunteers, the legislators and the donors. Like you, they are on the front line in the fight against drunk driving – supporting our law enforcement officers as they battle drunk and drugged driving 24/7, asking their representatives to pass stronger laws and telling their stories to others so that they will understand the devastation that is caused by these violent crimes.

It’s an honor for me to have the opportunity to see all of you at work and I can’t thank you enough. Together, we WILL eliminate drunk driving.


Announcing New Partnership with the American Grandparents Association

After a drunk or drugged driving crash, grandparents are often left behind to pick up the pieces. And sometimes they even find themselves raising their grandchildren when a parent is killed, like Nina and Gary Walker, whose daughter Ginger was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 22 leaving behind her three-year-old son Shaye. The Walkers found themselves grieving the death of their daughter and helping their grandson cope at the same time.

The American Grandparents Association, the benefits organization of Grandparents.com, is joining forces with MADD to help eradicate these senseless deaths for their next generation of loved ones. Five dollars of the $15 annual American Grandparents Association membership dues paid by new and renewing MADD donors and supporters who join will go to help MADD save lives and serve victims of drunk and drugged driving.

The American Grandparents Association connects and nurtures America’s 70 million grandparents and their families, by giving them access to special benefits and information on topics that matter most—health, family, money and more.

Click here to learn more about this partnership.

MADD is privileged to work with both the American Grandparents Association and Grandparents.com, and we appreciate their support in helping us save lives and prevent injuries across the country.


My Loss (Guest Blog)

My Loss (Guest Blog)

By Tennessee Titan Delanie Walker. Originally published on theplayerstribune.com.

My auntie’s name was Alice, but everyone in my family always called her Peaches, because she was sweet like a peach.

When I was 11 years old, she came over to my house in her Camaro and asked if I wanted to drive it. Peaches was definitely the “cool aunt” in our family. I remember that car so distinctly — it was a 1989 Z-28 IROC. I got behind the wheel on my empty street, and she asked if I’d ever driven a Camaro before. “Yeah,” I lied, before barely stepping on the gas. The car gave a huge jolt and we flew forward a few yards before she screamed to hit the brakes. We were both silent for a beat and before she said, “You can try this again one day, but only if I’m not in the car.”

My auntie was hilarious, she was caring and she bought her kids all the best video game systems, which made going to her house well worth the two-hour bike ride it took to get there. My brother and I made the trip all the time. She was just the type of person who made sure everyone around her was happy.

When Bryan came into her life and they got together, she became an even better person.

She was just the type of person who made sure everyone around her was happy.

I didn’t know him as well as the rest of my family did because I was in college at the time she met him. But it was clear that he treated my auntie very well, she’d never been happier. Whenever I came home from school, he would always make a point to tell me how proud he was of me. It meant a lot coming from him, because he was a cop and someone I really respected.

When I started playing in the NFL, Peaches and Bryan were two of my biggest fans. They weren’t big travelers, but every year they would trek to several road games just to cheer me on. Having them around always put me in a better mood.

At the beginning of the 2012 season, my auntie made it clear that when the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl (not if, but when), she and Bryan wanted to be at the game. True to her word, right after we won the NFC championship, she gave me a call to reserve her tickets. I was more than happy to oblige.

The Super Bowl was being played in New Orleans that year, so we definitely had some fun during the week leading up to the game. Making it to the NFL was a dream I had shared with Peaches since I was little, and this was our celebration.

The day before the game, we had a practice and I got to take Peaches and Bryan onto the field. They were really excited to meet all the players and the coaches, and the smiles they had on their faces still stick with me. I knew it was an experience that they really treasured, and it’s difficult to put into words the pride I felt in being able to share that moment with them.

After the game, the team flew back to San Francisco from New Orleans.

When we landed I turned on my phone to discover that I had 100 missed calls. This was odd, but I had just lost the Super Bowl, so I assumed the calls were about the game.

While we were taxiing on the ground, my mom called, and when I picked up she was crying.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Peaches is dead.”

“What?”

I told her that there was no way — I had just seen Peaches. But my mom told me that she had been trying to call her since last night and couldn’t get through. My auntie always picked up the phone, no matter what. But even when her kids were calling her, she wasn’t answering.

My mom had learned that there had been a deadly car accident on the freeway after the game, involving a drunk driver. The police couldn’t identify the bodies in the car that was struck because it had caught on fire.

The team was supposed to head back to the 49ers facilities, but I told Jim Harbaugh that I had to catch a flight back to Los Angeles to be with my family.

There was a lot of uncertainty and confusion as we tried to figure out what was going on. I have to give the NFL credit for helping us gather information after learning about the situation. We eventually were told that there was a male and a female passenger in the vehicle that had caught fire. A few more hours went by, and then we were informed that they found a badge in the car.

It belonged to Bryan.

My entire family immediately broke down. I wanted to cry, but I felt like I needed to stay strong for everyone else.

I reflect on what happened to Peaches and Bryan every day. It’s truly never far from my thoughts. I torture myself thinking about what I could have done differently.

What if I had made them stay somewhere closer to the stadium?

I torture myself by thinking about what I could have done differently.

What if I had told them that they could stay in my room?

What if they had not come to the Super Bowl at all?

I wish I didn’t reflect on these scenarios, but I don’t have a choice. The person who was drunk and decided to get behind the wheel did.

For a long time after the accident, I kept all my feelings inside. I was consumed by sadness and anger. But eventually I learned that the only thing that helped me heal was talking about it. Sharing my story and expressing the devastation my family has felt because of this tragedy is the only way I can potentially stop this from happening to someone else. It’s the only way that something good can come from the most difficult experience of my life.

Two of the most popular things in America are beer and football, and oftentimes they’re consumed together. I understand that there’s nothing I can do to stop that. But all I ask is that if you do choose to drink at a sporting event, have a plan.

The term “drink responsibly” is often used, but truly consider what that means. Consider the choice that you’re making when you don’t do so. If it’s not enough to imagine the potential danger you cause yourself, think about the people closest to you in your life.

Take a moment right now to think about them.

OK, now imagine if you were to lose them this instant, without so much as a goodbye.

That’s the hurt that you’re deciding to potentially impose on somebody else when you make the decision to drive under the influence of alcohol.

It’s too late to help my family — we’ve already experienced our nightmare. But I want to do everything in my power to stop another family from getting a phone call that changes their lives forever.

Delanie Walker is currently a tight end for the Tennessee Titans. He is also a spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for which he devotes his time in memory of Alice and Bryan Young. You can learn more about MADD by visiting www.MADD.org.

 

 Photographs By Jed Jacobsohn/The Players’ Tribune


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