Last weekend, like every weekend, drunk driving crashed into people’s lives.
This time, it was at a Mardi Gras parade. An alleged drunk driver with a blood alcohol level of .232 two hours after he was taken into custody plowed his truck into the crowd, injuring 28 innocent bystanders. Those who were there, but managed to escape unscathed, breathed a little easier and hugged their children a little tighter.
These horrific and completely preventable tragedies will continue to happen until the nation decides that enough is enough. Until we realize that it’s not enough to simply survive on our roadways – we must actively work to make them safer.
What can you do to make our roads safer:
- Organize. Join with MADD to speak up for those who have had their voices stolen by this preventable crime. Stand up for those who’ve lost the ability to stand for themselves.
- Volunteer. It takes an army of people to do the lifesaving work that we do every day. Becoming a MADD volunteer means taking active steps to stop this scourge in your community by work with local law enforcement and educating teens.
- Lobby. Let your legislators know you want effective and strong laws. Tell judges that those convicted of these crimes deserve more than a slap on the wrist.
- Donate. Make a tax-deductible gift to help victims, educate the next generation and honor the work done on the front lines by law enforcement.
If you are a victim of the alleged drunk driving crash in New Orleans, please call Program Manager Valerie Cox at 225.926.0807 or call our national, 24/7 Victim Help Line at 877.MADD.HELP. We offer victim services and support at no charge.
We must share a special "thank you" from the bottom of our hearts with everyone who took part in our February campaign focusing on children endangered by drunk driving. We shared that nearly half the children killed in crashes are riding with offenders, and, wow, did MADD supporters stand up to make a difference.
Thank you so much for giving a teddy bear hug to a child endangered by drunk driving. Your generosity means a child — potentially one riding with the offender — receives a little fuzzy, cuddly teddy bear to hug for comfort in a very scary and very adult situation.
We informed our law enforcement heroes across the country that we have nearly 250 bears to give to them for FREE, and the requests are pouring in! Police departments in Texas, Alabama, Florida and more have already said they want bears. We will begin sending out the teddy bears shortly, and we won't stop until every single bear is tucked away in a police vehicle for the next child in need. We will be sure to share pictures and vidoes of the officers with the bears with you!
But we have even more to thank you for achieving! Nearly 2,000 of you took the time to tell your legislators that we, as voters, demand stronger child endangerment laws.
Sadly, we know these laws are necessary. During the campaign, we tragically shared several news stories involving children who were riding with the alleged drunk driver.
A teddy bear may not seem like much to us, but, to a child after a crash or arrest, we know it will make the world a little less scary.
This is the first in a three-part series by Drunk Driving Victim Erin Rollins:
My entire body shook. My closest friends, family and I had waited for this day for months.
October 18, 2016 represented two years of waiting. Two years spent in-and-out of hospitals undergoing several surgeries, totaling six thus far, and hundreds of hours of physical and occupational therapy.
Everyone who had supported me hoped for a conviction and agreed the offender should go to jail. This agreement wasn’t due to unforgiveness; rather, the knowledge that forgiveness and justice are separate things.
I had forgiven her for the reckless decision that led to her driving at a BAC of twice the legal limit, traveling the wrong way on the expressway and hitting my car in a head-on collision. But I had trouble forgiving her complete lack of remorse for those two years.
I may not have physically died November 9, 2014, but I lost my life. The Erin I once knew no longer existed. My body was damaged, broken, ravaged, and sliced open several times. It left me with three long scars, one from right below my ribs to my groin area, one from the middle of my back to the tailbone and one stretching horizontally from my left rectus muscle to only a couple of inches away from the back scar.
I had lost so much—my car, job, independence and a possible love interest to name a few—with my body being the most devastating. But there was one thing that sustained me through it all: a prayer that I had prayed most of 2014.
I prayed for my best friend and father to return to Christ, to meet my husband and to make an impact with my life. After seven months, God answered.
On November 6, 2014, I took my little black-and-white Pomeranian for a walk, and asked God once again what it would take for the things I had prayed for to happen. This time, I heard God speak to me as if he was standing right next to me. He shared with me that something tragic needed to happen.
There I stood surprised, but without fear. So I made a request.
“OK, God, do whatever you need to do, just don’t take my life.”
On November 9, 2014, my life changed forever.
At approximately 1:29 am, the same drunk driver that I faced today struck me head-on.
I truly believe that had I not asked God to spare my life, I wouldn’t have made it.
On impact, my spine shattered. I sustained two burst fractures at L5 and S4, rendering me paralyzed—I couldn’t feel or move anything below the waist. I also suffered tremendous injury internally leading to holes in my bowels, colon and small intestine; a severed iliac artery, lacerated liver, fractured sternum, three broken ribs, and a concussion. My right foot broke in three different places, and the seatbelt tore my left rectus muscle in half.
The paramedics, state trooper and hospital staff told me repeatedly that I was lucky to be alive.
The surgeons explained that I needed two emergency surgeries and they needed to decide which to do first: repair the holes to my organs that would cause sepsis and kill me, or decompress my spine to prevent complete and permanent paralysis. Needless-to-say, they chose to repair my organs first.
The next day, the surgeons wanted to conduct an 8-12 hour spinal fusion. My family wasn’t comfortable with the pace they wanted to move because of how critical of a condition I was in. I was subsequently transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital two days later. There, they fused my spine, inserted two titanium rods and 10 screws, and removed as many shards of bone as possible that had taken residence in my spinal canal. The neurosurgeons said there was more damage than they anticipated, and they weren’t sure if I would ever walk again.
The third emergency surgery became necessary because the first one to repair holes in my intestines failed, and I became septic. The surgeons said had they not caught it in time, I would’ve died hours later.
I spent six more weeks in inpatient rehab learning to sit-up, catheterize myself, clean and change the colostomy that was formed during my sepsis surgery, and walk using a walker, while suspended in a harness that hung from the ceiling.
By discharge from rehab, I had survived the most difficult part of my life thus far, but I couldn’t have imagined the task of learning how to live once more with a completely different body and set of circumstances, as well as the emotional task of processing such profound trauma.
Additionally, for the first year and a half afterwards, I was too weak to attend court dates for the criminal case against the drunk driver who almost took my life. When it finally came time to read my victim impact statement in court almost two years post crash, I could never have anticipated what it would be like to face my offender, and the lesson I would learn on forgiveness that day.
Erin's story is also featured in Chicago Now.
As National President of MADD, I have the opportunity to stand and support our law enforcement in all agencies across the country. One such organization is the National Sheriffs Association, which has dedicated itself to serve the office of the Sheriff with police education, police training and general law enforcement resources for more than 75 years.
As a member, I serve on the Domestic Violence and Crime Victim Services Committee and audit the Traffic Safety Committee. And at the recent 2017 Winter Legislative and Technology Conference in Washington, D.C., I had the honor of co-presenting with Sheriff John Whetsel on “Treating Victims of DUI/Impaired Driving Crashes as Crime Victims."
Our presentation centered on removing the “A” word from our vocabulary. The “A” word is "accident'. The right word for these violent crimes is “crash.” The aim of our seminar was to change that mind-set and to educate and ensure that victims of these crashes are responded to by law enforcement in a crime/victim-centered way, with all the referrals, support, and crime victim compensation resources due victims of a violent crime.
MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving has, as its first tenet, “support our law enforcement”. That’s why it is my honor to stand beside these brave men and women in all agencies and support them. They are our Heroes and are playing a huge part in bringing about the day when there are “No More Victims®!”
And, I am pleased to share, that the law enforcement members I spoke to were very receptive to the idea of replacing the "A" word with the real word - crash!
Arizonans throughout the state rushed over to Dunkin Donuts on Feb. 28, 2017 to buy a MADD Donut, and support the efforts of the organization in ending drunk driving. Thank you to Dunkin Donuts, and our supporters who picked up these delicious treats at their local Dunkin Donuts store.
The success , despite bad weather, shows Arizona’s continued commitment to helping those in need. MADD CEO Debbie Weir personally witnessed and was very pleased with the community spirit shown by everyone who supported MADD by buying a MADD donut.
MADD and Dunkin Donuts’ combined success showcased not only their efforts to end drunk driving, but it also served as a reminder of the community support that MADD has around the country.
Through events like this, we can spread awareness about the deadly consequences of the violent and 100 percent preventable crime of drunk driving, raise funds to continue MADD’s 24-hour efforts to end drunk driving and support victims of drunk driving crashes. It is because of community support that we can envision a near future of No More Victims®.