The holidays are here and the end of 2014 is right around the corner! Which also means, my term as MADD’s National President is just about over.
I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made together this year and over the past three and a half years that I’ve spent as your National President. Thanks to you, each year we save more lives, serve more victims, and bring awareness to the dangers of drunk driving and underage drinking.
To show my thanks, I want to share with you a special holiday video message:
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you have done this year to help save lives and serve victims. It has truly been an honor to serve as your National President.
Jan Withers MADD National President
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MADD is astonished and frustrated that Michael Phelps was not ordered to install ignition interlocks in his vehicles. This was well within the look back period of a repeat offense in Maryland. The judge in this case failed Maryland residents by not requiring this proven-effective, lifesaving device. When an ignition interlock is available as a sanction, it must be ordered every single time. It’s the single, most effective way to keep offenders from drinking and driving again.
Interlocks reduce repeat offenses by 67 percent according to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving calls for all convicted drunk drivers to get an alcohol ignition interlock, even first time offenders. Several states have seen drunk driving deaths drop by more than 30 percent after all-offender interlock laws were passed.
While we are grateful that Michael Phelps is getting the help he needs, an ignition interlock would hold him accountable, not only to his own safety, but also the safety of others.
Don’t let your holiday celebration end it tragedy, make a #holiDDay plan that includes a non-drinking designated driver. Share this image and tell us on social media using the hashtag #holiDDay, how you plan to celebrate the holidays safely:
Even one too many drinks increases the risk of a crash—it’s just not worth it. So this #holiDDay season, and all year round, plan ahead for a safe way home, especially if your plans involve alcohol. Additional resources:
On April 13, 2009, Robert King Jr. received a phone call that forever changed his life. St Joseph’s hospital in Tampa called to tell him that his mother, Betty Williams, had been in a crash.
Mr. King immediately called his wife Norma and they left for Tampa from their home in Wildwood, Florida, a little over an hour away. When they arrived at the hospital, Robert expected to sign papers for emergency surgery. It never dawned on him that his mother had passed away. But shortly after arriving at the hospital, he was told that his mother did not survive the crash.
She was stopped at a stoplight when she was rammed from behind by an impaired driver pushing her into the street and into a utility post. The impact caused massive internal injuries and multiple fractures. Betty had been able to communicate upon arriving at the hospital. So when she passed, it took hospital personnel by surprise.
After hitting Betty’s car, the offender dislodged his vehicle and continued driving. He then crashed into another vehicle, killing a 20-year-old female driver and pushing her into a tow truck, injuring its driver.
It has been five years since the King family loss Grandma Betty—a name everyone who knew her called her. The King family keeps Grandma Betty’s memory alive by continuing to gather as a family during the holidays and other times of the year, as she always loved to do.
“Grandma Betty just loved having everyone together. She would travel from Tampa to be with everyone,” Robert said.
She was described as always thoughtful and loved by all who met her. She was a free spirit who loved cooking, cleaning, crocheting, laughing and sewing.
“My husband has his mother’s smile, our daughter has her voice and our great granddaughter, has her complexion and hair. So Grandma Betty is always with us,” said Norma.
Their advice for others who are mourning the loss of a loved one for the first time during this holiday season would be to never let memories fade away. “It’s important to gather together and to cherish every moment spent together,” said Norma.
The King family continues to honor Grandma Betty throughout the year by keeping her memory alive and attending MADD’s yearly vigil.
In February 2011, the King family was present to see the impaired driver, who had at least three previous crashes before the one that took their mother’s life, sentenced to a 21.3 year prison term and a post-prison probationary period of 24. 3 years. He will never be able to receive a driver’s license.
As snow was falling gently in Hartford, I joined MADD Connecticut to kick off the 28th annual Tie One On For Safety® campaign. I had a chance to speak at the news conference along with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford Police Chief James Rovella, Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker, MADD Connecticut Executive Director Janice Heggie Margolis and several others.
The message from everyone was “don’t drink and drive.” It was heartwarming to know that there is a strong, consistent message from all those involved. It was also impressive to see law enforcement officers and first responders on hand to be recognized for the tremendous work they do on our roads.
One first responder, paramedic Donavan Alden, was specifically honored. In March of 2014, Donavan was killed by an alleged drunk driver as he was heading to work. His mother Ellen was there to ceremonially tie the first red ribbon on to an ambulance. The light snow falling couldn’t help me think of tiny frozen tears from the heavens in honor of Donavan.