If you’re a victim of drunk or drugged driving or underage drinking consequences, you don’t need a reminder to remember the loved one you lost. My husband and I remember our son Dustin on the day he was killed by a drunk and drugged driver, on his birthday, on holidays and at every family gathering. But we also remember him every other day of the year.
Thus the National Day of Remembrance, for victims, is not only about gathering to share our sense of loss and sadness; it’s also about telling stories from before the crash that make us smile, even laugh. As we gather, we serve as a reminder to everyone else around the country that people are still being killed by drunk drivers – more than 10,000 every year. And another 290,000 are injured. It’s an epidemic that is 100% preventable.
So, the National Day of Remembrance is about much more than the past. It’s about making a difference in the present, and working towards a future when there are NO MORE VICTIMS. Please join us in the fight. It’s one we can and WILL WIN!
2015 was a good year for Walk Like MADD. We raised to date over $3.16 million dollars and welcomed more than 21,500 participants and 2000 teams to participate in events in 82 cities across the country. We are thankful to all the staff, volunteers, sponsors and participants who worked tirelessly on events focused on ending drunk driving.
In addition to raising revenue, which in turn helps us provide continued programs and victim services at no cost to families, we focused our attention on establishing a meaningful and impactful event experience. Walk Like MADD provides the venue to rally the support of every day citizens and help put an end to drunk driving. Our goal was to have walkers remember what or who brought them to the event, feel inspired to work alongside MADD to solve the problem and be empowered to make a commitment to do even more to end drunk driving once and for all.
Here are a few pictures that represent how Walk Like MADD was able to turn tragedy into triumph.
Sam Riney, a police officer for the city of Alton in Illinois, was on duty December 19, 2005 (the week before Christmas) when his squad car was hit head on by a repeat impaired driver.
Sam sustained severe physical injures including a brain injury known as brain shearing. He was not expected to recover from the brain injury and doctors predicted he would not have a meaningful recovery and that he would be permanently disabled, requiring total care.
The crash occurred two days after Sam’s birthday and a week before Christmas. His wife, Kate, was pregnant with their first child at the time and they were looking forward to celebrating Sam’s birthday and Christmas. Celebrations that year would have to be put on hold. Instead of celebrating the holidays with family and friends, Sam was recovering from brain surgery. His prognosis was very poor and he wasn’t expected to recover. This was extremely difficult for them to deal with. Kate shared this took an emotional toll on them at what was supposed to be a very happy time for them – Sam’s birthday, the Christmas holiday and the arrival of their first child. Instead, that Christmas was spent in the ICU waiting area. There was no celebration.
Sam’s offender was charged with aggravated DUI conviction, driving on a suspended license and driving while uninsured. He and his passengers suffered only minor injuries in the crash that forever changed Sam and Kate’s life.
Sam did recover. After six months of rehabilitation and another six months of light duty, Sam was able to return to full duty as a patrol officer.
Once Sam was home and healthy, they had a “Christmas in July” sort of celebration at home to thank their family for all of their support throughout the injury and recovery.
Although the crash affects their life every day, Kate and Sam try not to think about. For them, continuing to relive the tragedy would only give the offender’s actions more power. Instead, they do what they can to educate others. Kate speaks at Victim Impact Panels for MADD, sharing Sam’s story and how that day changed their lives. Sam is a strong advocate in his professional work as a police officer fur DUI enforcement. He was honored by MADD and the State of Illinois for his efforts in DUI enforcement.
Drunk driving deaths drop below 10,000 for first time since 2011
Today, MADD learned that the number of drunk driving fatalities on our nation’s roadways dropped below 10,000 for the first time since 2011. According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 9,967 fatalities involving an alcohol impaired driver in 2014 (compared to 10,076 in 2013), accounting for 31 percent of all traffic fatalities. Yet NHTSA also noted that overall traffic deaths for the first half of 2015 are up as much as 8.1 percent. This is troubling, especially given that the holiday season is upon us, one of the most dangerous times of the year for drunk driving.
While the 2014 decline in drunk driving fatalities is welcome news, there is still much to be done to create a future of No More VictimsTM. As a nation, we must stop these senseless tragedies.
Today, MADD issues a national call to action and challenges every state to pass all-offender ignition interlock laws and improve existing laws to ensure all offenders use an ignition interlock as soon as possible after a drunk driving offense. Ignition interlock laws are a key feature of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Since the Campaign was launched in 2006, drunk driving deaths are down by 26 percent. The newly released NHTSA data shows a continued decline in states with ignition interlock laws; such as Arizona, which has experienced a 50 percent reduction in drunk driving fatalities since its law passed in 2007. Drunk driving fatalities in West Virginia have dropped 40 percent since 2008; and other states – such as Oregon, Washington and Hawaii – have had reductions of 25 to 33 percent.
MADD also encourages every law enforcement agency to participate in NHTSA’s upcoming Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign to increase enforcement during the holidays. Law enforcement plays a pivotal role in preventing drunk driving, and MADD applauds their tireless work to protect the public during the holidays and year-round.
The public can also plan ahead for a safe ride home this holiday season and show their support for law enforcement by participating in MADD’s Tie One On For Safety® campaign. For more information, visit madd.org/toofs.
Recently, several high-profile news articles have brought new attention to underage drinking. In Washington, D.C., a local high school principle sent an email to parents imploring them to not provide alcohol to underage students. Also in Washington, a former high school quarterback was charged with vehicular manslaughter after leaving a house party where a seemingly knowing parent allowed underage drinking to occur. And finally, a ballot initiative was just filed in California to lower the drinking age from 21.
MADD is committed to the health and safety of our young people. We applaud Walt Whitman High School Principal Alan Goodwin for taking a stand and encouraging parents to stop underage drinking. Parents are the biggest influence on their children, and this program will help keep your child safe, and we have proven tools like the Power of Parents that can help.
MADD takes our mission to prevent underage drinking seriously, and we want to remind parents and teens that the consequences of underage drinking can be devastating. The 21 minimum drinking age is one of the most researched and reviewed public health laws in our country. Recent studies show that the adolescent brain is continuing to develop until young people reach their mid-twenties. It is important that we continue to support the 21 drinking age to keep our children safe and healthy.
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 episode in Washington is stark reminder of the consequences. Not only was the father given a citation of $5,000, which could have been $60,000, but two young people lost their lives. All of this is 100 percent preventable.
Some parents still believe that “all kids drink underage” and that “it’s safer under my watchful eye.” After all, Europeans drink at age 18 and their society is flourishing, right? These three myths couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is, the majority of teens don’t drink. In fact, less than 30 percent of teens have had a drink in the past month. And only 20 percent of teens binge drink. So, not everyone is doing it! Research proves it’s never safe to let children drink.
And when teens feel they have their parents’ approval to drink alcohol, they tend to drink more — and more often — outside the home. What seemed harmless at first often results in tragic consequences that even parents don’t anticipate.
Finally, in Europe, young people have higher intoxication rates than in the United States, and less than a quarter had lower or equivalent rates to the United States. Also, a greater percentage of young people in a majority of Europe report binge drinking at higher rates than their U.S counterparts. Most European youth have higher rates of alcohol-related problems because of their heavy drinking.
MADD continues to speak out about the dangers of underage drinking. We have made too much progress to see effective laws like the 21 drinking age discarded. We encourage you to support the 21 drinking age and talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking. Together, we can make a difference and end underage drinking.
Parental influence is the most important factor in helping keep kids safe, and MADD’s Power of Parents® program focuses on educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of underage drinking, and provides them the tools they need to talk with their kids about alcohol. Visit madd.org/powerofparents to download our Parent Handbook and get tips and tools to help you have this lifesaving conversation about alcohol with your kids.