The power to serve as a Hero

You never know when a few words will make a difference.

It happened a few weeks ago in Denver when I was making the Keynote Speech at the International Association of Police Chiefs Training for Drug Recognition Experts. After my keynote, an officer being further trained on the DRE process came up to me in the hotel. He asked if he could talk to me privately. He was visibly upset, and he said he just wanted to give me a hug and tell me his story.

What he said next shocked me.

 Oregon State Police Captain Church Hayes  MADD President Colleen Sheehey-Church

He said that today changed his life. MADD’s message hit him hard.
The officer told me he came to the conference frustrated.

In his words, he had had it. He had made up his mind that after the conference, he would ask for a transfer to another division. Catching and locking up DUI offenders was too hard…..the hours too long…..the defense attorneys too able to rip our officers on the stand, not to mention the too many plea bargains that let the offender just walk.

But after hearing about our commitment and the services provided by MADD and the personal story of my son Dustin, he mind was changed.

He responded to our commitment to the law enforcement community and how we support them, how we have their backs….that MADD will be there for them. In the end, it changed his decision – he  was going stay on the DRE Task Force, so he could MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND SAVE LIVES!

You hope your words make a difference. You don’t always know if they did.

But on this day, my words did, and I knew because of his hug, his thanks, his true spirit, and his newfound commitment. It is something I will never forget.

MADD seeks to honor and recognize law enforcement year round and especially near dangerous, busy holidays. That's why we are inviting all law enforcement officials to join us for a free or reduced-price lunch Wednesday, August 31st. Just our way of saying thanks for all their labor. We hopet to see you there.

"Cool" parents take note of Dankos v. Stapf

Mothers Against Drunk Driving applauds the recent landmark decision by Maryland Supreme Court, which advances the prevention of underage drinking by holding adults accountable for illegally providing alcohol to underage drinkers. MADD is proud to have filed an amicus brief in the Nancy Dankos, et al. v. Linda Stapf case, asking the court to hold adults liable for deaths or injuries caused by the underage drinkers.

The Dankos ruling is the result of a tragic case in Maryland that claimed the life of high school football star Steven Dankos, who, along with other friends, climbed into the bed of a pickup truck driven by an intoxicated driver. They had been drinking at a party hosted at the home of Linda Stapf. As a result, Steven’s mother sued Ms. Stapf.

The court’s ruling in favor of Ms. Dankos puts so-called “cool parents” on notice that they will be held morally, criminally and now financially responsible for the consequences of their actions. Not only does the court’s decision establish proximate causation when “cool parents” intentionally and knowingly allow children to consume alcohol on their premises, but it also removes any issue of contributory negligence on the part of the underage drinker. In other words, “cool parents” may be held 100% responsible.

There is a cultural shift occurring across the country that underage drinking is not cool. It was not cool that Ms. Stapf allowed children to get drunk in her garage. It was not cool that Ms. Stapf allowed high school football star Steven Dankos to get into the back of a truck with a drunk driver. It was not cool that Steven lost his life and Nancy Dankos lost her son at the young age of 17. This landmark decision in Maryland will save the precious lives of children across the country.

MADD will continue to advocate for the criminalization of actions by adults who provide or allow alcoholic beverages at events for underage participants. The 21 minimum drinking age is one of the most researched and reviewed public health laws in our country and has saved about 800 lives per year. MADD encourages all parents to support the 21 drinking age and talk to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking.

Let’s be clear however, underage drinking is an adult problem. In order for those under 21 to obtain alcohol, an adult somewhere must break the law. For parents who provide or permit underage drinking in their home, the case in Maryland and similar cases across the nation are stark reminders of the tragic consequences. MADD takes our mission to prevent underage drinking seriously. As this case reminds us, underage drinking is completely devastating and 100% preventable.

For more information on how to talk to your middle and high schoolers about alcohol, visit

San Diego hit with 3 drunk driving crashes within hours

This past weekend, San Diego was plagued with three alleged drunk driving crashes that ripped apart three separate families - all within hours of each other.

The crashes killed three people, including a victim who may have been trying to stop someone from driving drunk. The devastation took place between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"This was obviously a devastating weekend for our community, and I only hope it helps the public understand that this problem is real. This problem is relevant. And we need to take action," said MADD San Diego Program Specialist Cristi Walker.

The First Crash

The first crash struck at 7 p.m. Saturday in Ramona when a full-size Chevrolet pickup truck with a 51-year-old male driver struck a late model Buick sedan and a Mini Cooper, according to Channel Seven in San Diego.

The Mini Cooper caught fire, resulting in the death of the driver at the scene. The driver of the Buick sustained non-life threatening injuries, and the truck driver received a broken wrist. Drunk driving became a possible cause after law enforcement officers discovered beer cans in the truck driver's vehicle. He has been arrested on alcohol-related charges, including felony vehicular manslaughter.

The Second Crash

Then, around 1 a.m. Sunday on Camina Ruiz in Mira Mesa, a 21-year-old man t-boned the vehicle of a 19-year-old driver, who was pulling onto the street. The 19-year-old driver died at the hospital. Alcohol is suspected in the crash. The 20-year-old alleged offender received non-life threatening injuries.

The Third Crash

The third crash occurred in Mira Mesa by a hotel, possibly because the victim was trying to STOP someone from drunk driving.

Jonathan Merkley, according to witnesses, stood in front of a car in an effort to prevent a friend from driving after drinking. The suspect got into his vehicle, allegedly hit Merkley, and fled the scene.

How many more crashes will take place tomorrow or the next day? We have the ability to stop this 100% preventable crime. Isn't it time we say enough is enough?

Please consider joining MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®.

Let's prevent this type of weekend from reoccurring.

Voices of Victims: Sharon Hodges

By Jamie Dillon

It occurs to me that while this coming weekend signifies 21 years in one way for me, there are many of you I've never even met who are gearing up for it in another way that’s much sexier and far more fun. This is for you – for the birthday girl and boys who become women and men and turn legal drinking age this weekend. (And a little bit for me, too, I guess).

Let me start by saying this: I’m not trying to kill your can’t-wait-to-get-carded anticipation here. On the contrary, if you hang tight, you’ll see I’m trying to keep it going.
It was 21 years ago this year when my mom left for work and never came home. She planned on it – on coming home. She looked forward to the big weekend ahead. She had a car full of goodies for her grandson, a bouquet of daisies (her favorite), and the family dinner grocery list in her sweet, loopy, hard-right leaning cursive to prove it.

In bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, another driver heading toward her somehow managed to swerve into the opposite lane and hit my mom head on.
I say somehow like it’s a mystery, but it's not.

My mom always left a little extra space between her white Subaru and the car in front of her to keep her safe. My mom died three days later. She was 54.

She was the light of my life, and I’m not at all alone when I say that.

What happened after this 36-year-old stranger spent her afternoon in a bar and drove just a few miles toward home with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit? It was, well, a mess of ardent doctors and nurses and bad news, of judges and journalists, of crying in public and under the covers, and doing things we didn’t know how to do like pick out a top that looked light and seasonal enough for sunny springtime but could still cover the impact wounds around my mother’s neck.

The funeral coordinator said it would help keep people from being any more uncomfortable when they said their goodbyes.

When the young girl at the department store was putting the high-necked peach blouse in the bag, she asked my sister, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” My sister said, “Can you bring my mom back? That’s what I really need you to do for me.”

We cringe and laugh a little bit about that now, but I’ve never heard a more desperate, earnest answer to an innocent question in all my life.

Our family still looks and feels different than it should. Sure, we’re a little bit stronger in some places. But when you find those bits of us, don’t forget the broken pieces right next to them. They’re there and every bit a part of us.

We learned things we never planned on learning like what a brain with no activity looks like on an MRI scan and that someone with five prior DUIs can kill a person on her next one and still only get a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

We learned that choosing a bench as a headstone is a horrible idea if the ground isn’t perfectly flat. It will always look tippy because one leg has to be longer than the other to make the top even.

But then we learned we don’t like to go up there much, anyway.

We learned my mom’s last words to the EMT who helped extricate her were, “I’m so scared.”

That was 21 years ago.

While every little essence of my mom that still remains in my heart and head flooded through me like it does every morning, I was drawn to think of someone else in my very first thoughts.

You. The one with the big birthday this weekend.

Just a smidge over two decades ago, families were starting while mine stopped. There was joy.

When my dad was holding the hand of his wife, there were people holding the hands of their loves in that same hospital. Instead of saying goodbye, they were saying hello to a new son or daughter. For the first time, they were looking at the light of their life.

They were looking at you.

I’m obviously not trying to hide where I’m going with this. Those who know me know subtlety is no more a virtue of mine than patience.

Put your ID to use to get you into the bar you always wanted to visit. Make your first liquor store purchase or add a six pack of beer to your grocery cart. Do it, if that’s what pleases you. It's literally your right.

But then do something else.

Use Uber or Lyft or a cab or a designated driver if you’re out. Stay home if you’re home. If you can plan the first part of your night, I pinky promise you will have the wherewithal to plan the last part of it. Just plan it now.

I woke up thinking of you this morning, and something tells me so many others did the same. Remember, you are the light of someone’s life, and those you spend time with are the lights in someone else’s life.

Be safe. Be silly. Be 21.

And then be 22 (I’ll be thinking of you then, too).

Quiz: The most dangerous...

Items 1 - 5 of 791  12345678910Next