By Donna Billingsley
My name is Donna Billingsley, and my son Stephen was killed instantly in a head on crash with a drunk driver March 7, 2003.
Stephen had a booming voice, a quick wit, an incredible imagination and a heart of gold. He loved chaos and controversy, and, if there wasn’t any, he made something up. He was an absent minded professor. His dream was to create anime with his girl Cass, who survived the crash.
Cass is from Australia, and they met through an online game. She came to the States about three months before the crash. Stephen was so nervous to meet her he got the time difference wrong and arrived at the airport a day early. He had to come home without her.
Stephen has a brother, Derek, and a sister, Paige. Partners in crime (hahaha). We each have our demons to deal with since the crash. For me, I cannot let Stephen or the reason he died be forgotten. My family has accepted my passion, and they just roll with it. His face is on the back window of my jeep so people can see who they are willing to kill if they drive drunk.
Even though it is difficult to get started each year for the MADD Walk, I am so grateful to be able to do good with the sadness I feel every day. With the help of my wonderful family, friends and generous community, I feel like we can make a difference.
This year, we set up tables at stores with posters and ribbons and asked everyone if they would like to help - and most did. Amazing people!!!
As long as anyone who loved Stephen lives and breathes, he will NOT be forgotten! To keep Stephen’s memory alive we will be walking on Saturday, September 10th at the Lubbock County Courthouse in Lubbock, TX. Please join us as we end drunk driving or make a donation.
So far in this election, presidential candidates have talked about topics ranging from the econmy and jobs to foreign affairs. But they haven’t talked about an issue that killed more than 10,000 people last year alone – drunk driving. Which presidential candidate will end drunk driving?
The reckless, criminal decision to drink and drive takes place more than 300,000 times a day, tragically robbing us of someone to this 100% preventable crime every 51 minutes. That means nearly two people will die during the course of the 90-minute debate. Clearly, this is an issue of national importance with far-reaching implications, especially as the number of drunk driving deaths tops 10,000 deaths for the first time in years.
It must end. And that’s worth talking about.
Let’s demand the conversation start at the top. Join us in asking the presidential candidates to address their plans to end drunk driving in the upcoming debate.
Will you vote FOR discussing drunk driving prevention during the debates? You can add your voice to the call in as little as three clicks.
Let’s get this on the debate stage!
Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its annual report on traffic fatalities for 2015. The bad news is that overall fatalities went up 7.2 percent. Alcohol deaths also went up, but the good news is that for the first time ever drunk driving deaths are below 30 percent of all crashes at 29 percent. Drunk Driving fatalities increased by 3.2 percent, from 9,943 in 2014 to 10,265 in 2015.
As a nation, we must do more to prevent these 100% preventable tragedies. The states that have good interlock laws continue to perform better than the others. We are making progress with our keen focus on our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and advocating for all offender ignition interlock laws. Since the Campaign was launched 10 years ago, the number of people killed in drunk driving crashes has dropped by 24 percent.
According to the new data, drunk driving deaths in West Virginia have been reduced by 50 percent since enacting an ignition interlock law for all offenders in 2008. The reduction just from 2014 to 2015 alone was 15 percent. New Mexico passed its all-offender ignition interlock law in 2005, and drunk driving deaths are down 37 percent, with a 16.2 percent drop from 2014 to 2015. Kansas also has seen a 37 percent reduction in drunk driving deaths since enacting an all-offender law in 2011, with a 22 percent drop from 2014 to 2015.
Other states with all-offender ignition interlock laws:
• Alabama (Effective July 2014): 5% reduction
• Arizona (Effective September 2007): 31% reduction
• Arkansas (Effective April 2009): 12% reduction
• Colorado (Effective January 2009): 14% reduction
• Hawaii (Effective January 2011): 23% reduction
• Illinois: (Effective January 2009): 13% reduction
• Louisiana (Effective July 2007): 33% reduction
• Mississippi (Effective October 2014): 16% reduction
• Missouri: (Effective March 2014): 9% reduction
• Tennessee: (Effective September 2013): 11% reduction
• Texas (Effective September 2015): 8% reduction
• Utah (Effective July 2009): 12% reduction
• Virginia (Effective July 2012): 8% reduction
• Washington (Effective January 2009): 19% reduction
MADD also applauds the 28 states and the District of Columbia that have passed all-offender ignition interlock laws. But we want to see every state pass laws that will save lives. This year, MADD calls on the 22 states that don’t have an all-offender ignition interlock law to take action to protect their residents and visitors. We challenge every state with an all-offender law to evaluate and improve existing laws to ensure all offenders use an ignition interlock as soon as possible after a drunk driving offense.
Together, we will create a Nation of No More Victims!
What’s a MADD membership perk?
It’s the knowledge that you’re contributing to the declining number of drunk driving deaths.
It’s the passion you receive from working toward the challenging, yet achievable, goal of ending drunk driving.
It’s the feeling when you know you’re helping to strengthen laws, support victims of drunk and driving, and educate the next generation regarding the dangers of underage drinking.
If you have a moment, please let us know about what it was like to donate to MADD. It's really easy - simply click below to let us know if you would call your experience a positive or negative one.
Again, thank you. Your gift to our campaigns mean the world to us – and it means fewer people will have their lives turned tragically upside down by drunk driving.
Together, we will end drunk driving.
By Dr. Gloria Horsley, an internationally known grief expert and author. Gloria is the founder of the Open to Hope foundation.
Labor Day is near, signaling the unofficial end of summer and for many the beginning of the school year. Change of seasons and routine can be especially trying for those who have had family members killed in automobile crashes. Strong emotions can sneak up on you and thoughts of what might have been can be overwhelming.
This happened recently to our daughter, Heidi while she was taking her son to the University of Arizona where he will start his freshman year in college. Heidi related that she was surprised by her strong reaction to bidding him goodbye. She was filled with dread about heading home to his empty room. She had flashbacks of coming home from college to attend her seventeen-year-old brother’s funeral. As a psychologist, she realized her emotional response was a bit over the top, even to the point where her son was trying to console her. Her goal was to support him, not to have the family support her.
Heidi’s response was somewhat like an anniversary reaction. As with an anniversary she felt strong emotions connecting this current event with an event that happened many years ago. She recognized that her fears and crying were out of the range of her normal response to having family members come and go.
5 suggestions for dealing with Anniversary Reactions
1. Make The Connection – If you feel that some of your responses to change are out of the range of your normal emotional range make the connections with past losses. Just identifying the connection can give you some perspective on your responses.
2. Talk It Over – Call a family member or friend and explain what is happening and how you are feeling. Talking about the event with three people can release a good deal of tension. On-line groups sponsored by The Compassionate Friends and Soaring Spirits offer great grief support.
3. Put It In Context – Remind yourself: that was then, and this is now. For Heidi it had been many years since her brother died but, if you have experienced the death of a close family member or friend remind yourself that two or three years is not a long time.
4. Get back Into Your Routine - If you are like Heidi, a clinical psychologist and executive director of Open to Hope, who loves her job then reconnecting with your routine will be easy. If you don’t like your job or your situation it may be time to consider a change.
5. Look To The Future – Plan something special that you can look forward to. It can be as simple as getting together with a friend for coffee or going to a movie. Heidi is looking forward to having Alexander come home for Thanksgiving; in the meantime she has planned several outings with her daughter and husband.
As always. I remind you that the greatest gift you can give the world is a happy, healthy you. Please visit us at Open to Hope where you can hear uplifting stories of those who have found hope and happiness after loss.
Dr. Gloria Horsley