During the past year and a half, I’ve found that things don’t always go as planned… especially if the weather’s involved. That was the case in Sugarland, Texas outside of Houston for their Walk Like MADD event. Heavy rain flooded the park where the Walk was to have taken place. MADD quickly shifted into high gear with a flurry of phone calls, texts, and contingency plans. The nervous energy infected everyone on the team and set butterflies off in my stomach.
But the enthusiasm from the MADD Southwest, Texas team turned out to run deeper than the water. We were here to honor victims. We were here to remember lost loved ones. And we were here to end drunk driving – and no amount of rain clouds could quench our shared desire to make this a momentous morning.
They decided to hold a Rally and more than 300 super-charged volunteers and victims turned out for the event. Velocity's Chris Jacobs joined me at the event. We spoke to the crowd and met with the victims. Many fans couldn’t pass up a chance to snap a quick selfie with the former Overhaulin’ star. Chris, who previously appeared in a MADD PSA, was all smiles as he walked with his group, Team #OverhaulinMADD. Jacob’s also serves as a national spokesperson for Velocity’s Drive Smart, an advocacy campaign created by Velocity with the help of MADD to encourage and raise awareness for safe driving practices on America’s roadways. Velocity donated $5,000 to the walk.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County District Attorney’s office and other law enforcement departments made a strong showing, which makes sense. These heroes are on the front lines of one of the most dangerous counties in the country for drunk driving.
Before the walk, we filled the park with the chime of bells and a shared shout of, “Drunk Driving Ends Here!” A pinwheel memorial was set up with one pinwheel representing each of the people lost to drunk driving in the Houston area.
Southeast Texas has one of the largest MADD Advisory Boards – and I was honored to meet a few of the top-notch members. Awards were passed out to the top teams as they gathered to remember their friends and loved ones who were killed or injured by drunk drivers. In the end, the rain didn’t stand a chance, not when we had energized walkers and hard-working volunteers dedicated to making sure this event honored our lost loved ones and raised donations to create a future of No More Victims®.
I know they’ll be back at Sugarland Creek Park on June 18th, the rain date for the run, and I hope they get a bright, sunny day… and I hope the “creek don’t rise."
For more information and to register visit www.walklikemadd.org/houston.
Drunk driving crashes recklessly into a life, senselessly and selfishly destroying families and breaking hearts before continuing down the road to dispense more tragedy. This crime kills about 10,000 and injures around 290,000 people a year, leaving hundreds of thousands to pick themselves up and continue carrying on despite the overwhelming loss.
When someone loses a loved one to drunk or drugged driving or is injured in a crash, many people feel a common urge to offer comfort, but some words hurt more than others. Here are the top seven phrases NOT to say to a drunk or drugged driving victim.
1. They are in a better place. Although usually well-meaning, these words may resonate badly with someone who has lost a loved one in a drunk or drugged driving crash as they would rather have their loved one here with them.
2. It was just an accident. Accidents are something unforeseeable and unexpected. When someone chooses to drink and drive – that's not an accident. It’s a crash waiting to happen. Drunk and drugged driving crashes are 100% preventable.
3. Texting/speeding/any other distracted driving is just as bad as drunk driving. No doubt, other dangerous habits kill and injure people on our roads, such as speeding and distracted driving. But those two categories combined don't equal the number of deaths, not to mention injuries and property damage, caused by drunk and drugged driving. Comparing it diminishes the problem.
4. Saying nothing at all. After a drunk driving crash, friends can sometimes avoid saying the loved one's name or just simply not know what to say, so they keep their distance. But drunk or drugged driving victims want and need that support and permission to talk about their loss. Be a friend that will listen and stay close, even if you are uncomfortable. Follow the victim's cue. If they want to talk about their loss, just listen. If they don't want to talk, just be there for them.
5. You’re lucky to be alive. Drunk driving victims and survivors might not feel lucky at all. They may feel traumatized, lost, and raw with emotions. Such statements may actually do the opposite of what you intend and hurt the person you are trying to comfort.
6. You need to forgive. Every victim feels differently about the crash and about forgiveness. Some feel like they will never be able to forgive the person who caused the crash, others feel like it's very important for them to do so. There is no right answer, so don't push people to do something they may not be able or ready to do.
7. Aren’t you over it already? There is no closure following a drunk or drugged driving crash. When someone is injured or killed they don't just “get over it”. Crashes affect people in different ways throughout their lives, and they will likely never go back to where they were before the crash happened.
If you or someone you know is dealing with the devastation caused by a drunk or drugged driving crash, don't hesitate to call our 24/7 Victim Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP. Then, you will be connected with a victim advocate, who can help you navigate the courts, locate local resources, and connect with people experiencing a similar grief. Additionally, we have online chat available on our website during normal business hours.
Discover more about victim services today.
Dear Graduating Class of 2016:
Our son, Bryce Kennedy died in a tragic car crash on October 1, 2006. He was only 19. He was a young man full of hopes and dreams. With aspirations of finishing college, starting a family with the love of his life and living a full happy life.
The night before Bryce died we spoke to Bryce about hopes and his dreams. We reminded him that life is short and that we have to be careful with the choices that we make. And as Bryce usually did he said, “Mom relax, nothing is going to happen to me.”
On the night that Bryce died, he had gone out with friends. He made the choice to get into the vehicle with someone who had been drinking. I remember the phone ringing late in the night. It was one of Bryce’s friends saying that he had been in an accident and that he was at the hospital. My immediate thought is it couldn’t be that bad, the hospital had not called. But Bryce had not called either.
I immediately called the emergency room at the hospital, as a former employee I talked to a former co-worker who stated you need to come on and please be careful. As we got up and started dressing I recall calling our parents to let them know where we were headed, not knowing what was going on. I recall waking our daughter and telling her and the blood curdling scream that she let out, it will be forever etched in my mind. Your entire body starts to shake the uncontrollable shake as your imagination starts to wander with unthinkable thoughts and your heart races. The drive to the hospital was eerily quiet and as we flew down the freeway to get to the hospital. On the way we passed a scene with police, fire crews and ambulances. Big lights all around the crash scene. We just kept going knowing that our son was at the hospital only to find out later that we were passing the scene where it all started.
They took us straight in to see Bryce. There he was intubated with a nurse squeezing a bag for every breath he took. One nurse holding pressure on his head because of the severe open head trauma that he had. IV’s everywhere with fluids and blood hanging. This could not possibly be our son, the son who the night before said, “Mom relax, nothing is going to happen to me.” But it was him. Doctors, nurses and trauma surgeons all around us telling us there was nothing more to be done, the facts were that it was getting harder and harder to get a breath in and that his brain injury was severe but he was probably not in any pain. We were left with one of the hardest decision as parents, really as a human that we have ever made. With our numb bodies, feeling empty and completely alone, we made the decision to take Bryce off of life support and let him go. It has to be the single worst feeling that we have ever experienced in our lives.
We share our story because Bryce could be any of you, if you choose to drink or if you choose to get into the car with someone who has been drinking. We talk about choices because you make that choice, nobody else. Remember the choices that you make not only affect you they affect those around you.
Bryce is forever 19. The impact that Bryce has on other’s lives is not how he wanted to make an impact. Bryce had dreams, dreams that will always be just that, dreams. You, you have the opportunity to carry out your dreams, you have the chance to choose the perfect path, make good decisions, choose not to participate in underage drinking or impaired driving. If you take the time for just a brief moment to think about the choice that Bryce made that night and how Bryce’s family and friends feel about Bryce’s death on a daily basis, then you could understand what underage drinking and impaired driving can cost you and your family. Please stay safe.
The Kennedy Family
Bryce graduated from Cooper High School in 2005. He had been attending Weatherford Junior College. He would turn 29 this year. Bryce loved his family and friends, sports, the great outdoors and The Lord. His friends have all graduated from college, married and started families now. We are the grieving parents that never attended college graduation, that never attended that wedding or meet those amazing grandchildren that could have been. We are the sister who will always mourn the death of the big brother that was always looked up to. For us this is reality, reality of how underage drinking and impaired driving changed our lives, forever.
Please share this~ if it helps only one~
Affluenza teen Ethan Couch doesn’t appear to be leaving jail anytime soon.
A Tarrant County judge sentenced him to 720 days – 180 days for each of the four people killed – as part of his adult probation, but also told the defense team they could argue for a small time period.
MADD snapped into action, writing an open letter to the judge asking him to stick to his original sentence, which, while not enough for the four lives lost and the people who were injured, at least included some jail time. Quickly, more than 2,000 people signed their agreement at www.madd.org/720NotEnough.
Less than 10 hours after sharing the letter, the judge reaffirmed the adult probation terms.
In mid-May, Couch, who has been in solitary confinement since moving to the adult jail system, was moved to a slightly-less confining jail.
Less well-known than Ethan Couch but no less infuriating is the case of Missouri-resident Dylan Meyer, who killed a Springfield woman while drinking underage and then driving. He received five years’ probation, but he was scheduled to head back to court after allegedly violating probation 11 times in two months.
Again, MADD rallied support to draw attention to the REAL victims by asking supporters to add their voice with ours. We asked 5,233 people to sign their name to represent the 5,233 alcohol-related crashes that occurred in Missouri last year. Currently, we are at roughly 1,500.
The hearing was pushed back until June 14th from May 12th. We still need your support! Join us in support of the REAL victim and her family, who must live with the loss of a loved one.
For me, the first half of each year includes visits to state legislatures around the country. There are meetings with lawmakers, testimony before various committees and interviews and news conferences with the media. It’s all to support the great efforts of MADD’s Government Affairs Office as they work to strengthen drunk driving laws in every state - a vital component of our mission to end drunk driving.
The march forward continued this spring with the unanimous passing of an all-offender ignition interlock law in Maryland (Read more about Noah's law), an optional first-offender Ignition Interlock law in Georgia, a DUI Child Endangerment law in Connecticut, improvements to Ignition Interlock laws in Tennessee and Mississippi and a law extending the look back period in Kentucky to ten years. Ohio, just this week, moved a step closer to strengthening its ignition interlock laws when the state House approved Annie's Law. This critical steps forward mean fewer families will suffer from the 100% preventable crime of drunk driving.
There also is legislation to improve drunk driving laws pending in California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Michigan. Forward progress was made in Florida and other states… and we’ll be back to continue the work next year - and every year after until we create a future of No More Victims®.
It’s rewarding to see the effort of so many people at MADD pay off with laws that will save lives. You can help in your state. Your voice matters and so does your vote. That’s why your representatives will listen to you when you call. So please join us in the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving.
You CAN make a difference!