MADD is one of the largest victim services organizations in the country, working to ensure that victims' rights are maintained, as well as providing support for victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving. We have more than 1,000 trained victim advocates nationwide, as well as our 24-hour Help Line available to provide victims with the support they need, when they need it most. And we want to serve as many victims as possible...until there are no more victims left to serve.
That’s why this week, in honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we are pleased to announce two new online tools for victims and survivors to find support.
We just created a new Facebook Group exclusively for victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving. The purpose of this new Group is to provide an online forum for victims and survivors to connect, share, and seek support. If you are a victim or survivor of drunk and/or drugged driving, please join our MADD Victim Services Facebook Group by clicking here and asking to join.
Please remember this Group is intended only for victims and survivors. If you are not a victim or survivor, we hope you will join us on our Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Facebook page.
We are also proud to announce that we have implemented a new online chat feature on our website, which provides another way for victims of drunk and drugged driving crashes to contact MADD Victim Services when they are in need of assistance. The live chat can be found on the MADD homepage and the Victim Services page and is generally available Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. If for some reason a Victim Services staff member is unavailable, you can leave a message in the chat box and your question will then be emailed and answered by a Victim Services Advocate as soon as they are available to respond.
If you are a victim or survivor, we hope you will take advantage of these new healing tools to connect with other victims and survivors, or if you are in need or support. You can also help us spread the word about these new tools to any victims or survivors you know.
Taylor Pirc was only four years old when she was killed by a repeat drunk driving offender. Taylor and her Grandma were on their way to take food to Taylor’s great-grandmother, who was sick. They were driving through a busy intersection when a car coming from the other direction and swerving from lane to lane turned too soon. He hit the median and came down on the back half of the car where Taylor was sitting.
After the crash, the drunk driver was convicted, but he immediately appealed. The conviction was overturned due to a technicality and a re-trial was scheduled. The re-trial was declared a mistrial, but an appellate court deemed it was possible to again re-try. Now, close to six years later, it went to trial once again, and he was convicted and sentenced to the maximum punishment of 14 years.
Throughout all of the court cases, Taylor’s mother Cristy was there for every hearing – even if was just to postpone it until another day. When sentencing came, she was allowed to read her victim impact statement in the courtroom, but other family members were not—they were only allowed to write letters to the judge. Several family members who wanted to speak were never given that opportunity.
On top of the long, drawn-out court case, Cristy and her family were verbally attacked by the defendant’s family in the halls of the courthouse. A re-victimization that no victim should have to go through when trying to get justice for a loved one.
In 2014, Cristy’s state amended its crime victim’s bill of rights to include several changes, including a victim’s right to be heard at any court proceeding involving a post-arraignment release decision, plea or sentencing. They also included a victim’s right to be free from harassment, intimidation and abuse throughout the criminal trial process.
These two amendments weren’t available to Cristy and her family when they went through the criminal justice process, but their experience highlights just how important these rights are and how vital it is that victims are notified of their rights so that they can exercise them. Cristy now encourages every victim to educate themselves about what their rights are so that they can make sure their voice is heard.
MADD Victim Advocates help victims and survivors in a variety of ways, including letting them know what their rights are, advocating on their behalf in the criminal justice process, and attending court with them. If you or a loved one has been impacted by a drunk or drugged driving crash and would like to speak with a MADD Victim Advocate, please call the MADD Help Line at 1-877-623-3435 or 1-877-MADD-HELP to speak with someone right away.
This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to recognize those who have been impacted by crime and renew our efforts to make sure these victims receive justice. This year’s theme, Engaging Communities. Empowering Victims, emphasizes the role of the entire community, individually and collectively, as we support victims of crime and empower them to direct their own recovery. You can help by volunteering as a MADD Victim Advocate or by spreading the word about MADD Victim Services.
21 Days in Support of 21: Day 14
By MADD volunteer, Juan De La Garza
My journey begins in the early hours of January 12, 2014. What should've been a calm night turned in to the most horrific ordeal for many. At approximately 12:30 a.m. a part of me was taken. My family lost the most important and influential person we knew—my 17 year old sister Alejandra.
Alejandra was a beautiful person inside and out, compassionate, hardworking and so determined. My sister played many roles and wore many hats. She was an honor roll student and an active member of our church. But her most important role was mother. Her pride and joy came in the form of little Filiberto. He could do no wrong in her eyes. Alejandra made sure any negativity or stigma that came from being a teen mother would be overshadowed by her accomplishments both in and out of the classroom.
Not a day goes by that I don't miss Alejandra. Every day is constant reminder that my family is broken, and a part of me is missing. On that cold morning in January, many people lost a friend, a loved one, when a beautiful life cut extremely short. Many dreams shattered and plans broken all because a selfish 19-year-old made the poor decision to drink underage, and then drive.
My sister missed out on many milestone moments. Alejandra will never get to experience the excitement of getting ready for prom. She never had the opportunity to go off to college, let alone apply for one. Most importantly, Alejandra will never get to see her son grow up. It’s heartbreaking knowing my sister will miss out on so much. And what haunts me the most is knowing this could've been avoided. Had it not been for that underage drunk driver, my sister would still be here. My nephew would still have his mother and my family would still be complete.
When I least expect it, I am puzzled by the same question over and over again. "Was my sister's life worth that drink?" There are a million questions that run through my mind, but I know that even if I ever had the chance or the courage to ask the 19-year-old that killed my sister a question, I'd be at a loss for words. There will never be a correct answer or an apology big enough to heal my broken heart.
I've made it my mission to make sure this tragedy never happens again to any family. Being able to team up with MADD has been a beautiful experience. Bringing awareness to so many young lives and their families is just so unforgettable.
I remember an event I did at a local high school. After I spoke, a student came up to me and hugged me. There, in a gymnasium full a strangers, a young 17-year-old girl cried on me. She showed nothing but gratitude. When I asked why she cried or why she thanked me, the only thing she could say was “Your sister's story touched me, it opened my eyes. I never want to put my parents in that position. I never want to lose a friend. I want to make the right choice, and stay above the influence." In that very moment I knew out of the 1,000 students present that day, my job was done. One life changed, one less teen drinking, one young life deciding to be responsible. All because of my sisters life.
I encourage everyone to take advantage of MADD’s underage drinking prevention programs for PowerTalk 21®. Students, teachers, parents use the materials to make a difference. The more we make it know, the more awareness we bring to our cause.
Don't be the reason why a family is broken, a child is left without a mother or why many hearts are broken. Join MADD and start the conversation this PowerTalk 21 day to help prevent underage drinking and save lives!
MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church poses with Juan at his sister's photo at the 2015 PowerTalk 21 Kick-off in Houston
21 Days in Support of 21: Day 6
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been at the forefront of drunk driving prevention for 35 years. Research shows that teens are over-represented in crashes and that the long-term effects of underage consumption play a part in the propensity of a person to make the choice to get behind the wheel after drinking. That’s why MADD works to help prevent underage drinking, because research shows that the prevention of underage drinking will help us reach our ultimate goal: to end drunk driving and therefore, save countless lives.
There’s no doubt that traffic crashes are a major source of tragedy for youth. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 24 percent of the young drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. This amounts to 926 drivers aged 15-20 who were involved in fatal crashes.
But drunk driving is not the only concern when it comes to underage drinking—taking away the keys does not take away the risk. Underage drinking is also associated with violent crime, property crime, unintentional injury, risky sex, and long-term alcohol problems. Using 2010 data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that 32 percent of all deaths related to underage (age 15-20) alcohol use were traffic fatalities and 68 percent were other fatal incidents, including homicides (30 percent), suicides (14 percent), alcohol poisonings (9 percent) and other causes of death (15 percent).
Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and are two and a half times more likely to become abusers of alcohol than those who begin drinking at age 21. In 2009, 64,831 youth 12-20 years old were admitted for alcohol treatment in the United States, accounting for 8% of all treatment admissions for alcohol abuse in the country. And teen drinking leads to greater risk of drunk driving in their future as well.
The good news is that according to a GfK Roper Youth Report, 74% of adolescents aged 8-17 years reported parents as the most influential person in their decision not to drink at all or not to drink on occasion. Parents DO have the power to communicate with and therefore influence their kids’ decisions about alcohol, which can help protect them both now and in the future. Get MADD’s parent handbook(s) to start the conversation about alcohol today with your kids and help keep them safe both now and in the future.
This September, sisters Allie, 14, and Taylor Sands, 13, will participate for the third time in the Atlanta Walk Like MADD. Last year, they led their team to become the highest non-corporate fundraising team, as well as the team with most team members at the Atlanta Walk Like MADD. In the past two years, the Sands have help raise more than $18,000 for their team in honor of their brother, Tyler Sands.
We caught up with these two inspiring teens to ask them to share their motivation, and secret to success:
Why do you participate in Walk Like MADD?
We lost our brother Tyler Sands on October 16, 2012, it was his 22nd birthday. We participated in our first Walk Like MADD event in 2013, one month before the 1 year anniversary of his death. Although it is very difficult to attend Walk Like MADD, we found the people that went to the walk were very comforting because they had experience the same things we did. This event allowed us a place to tell our story and people would understand. We also want to make sure we can honor our brother and hopefully stop anyone else from becoming a victim.
How did you get involved with Walk Like MADD?
We were looking at the MADD website and saw that they had a Walk. We decided we wanted to start Team Tyler and have all of our family and friends come out to support us and participate in an important cause.
How did you get people to join your team?
Well, it wasn’t easy, but we really used our resources well. One thing we did was send email out telling Tyler’s story and asking to join or donate. Allie helped develop a program with our AAU basketball team called Athletes Against Underage Drinking and she went around and spoke at many of the practices. There were total over 150 girls that she spoke to that summer. Some of the simpler ways we recruited was we created flyers, have neighborhood bakes sales, brought “cookies for cops” and of course, posted the event and updates on social media.
What ways did you motivate your team members to fundraise?
We think the most important thing is to be connected with your team. You have to make sure to be sending constant email, giving updates or deadlines. For our team we stayed close and did fundraising with them to make them feel part of the experience so we can make a difference together.
What is your goal for this year’s event?
This year we would like to raise 10,000 dollars and we would like for every one of our team members to raise 100 dollars. We would like to recruit more team members and have more people get involved. This year one of our major goals is to warn as many people as we can about the dangers of drunk driving or getting in a car with someone who is drunk.
What is your favorite thing about Walk Like MADD?
Our favorite thing about Walk Like MADD is the people you meet. What we mean by this is, people who have had the same experiences and people who are going through the same thing that you are going though. Why, because the best person to comfort someone when they are going through tragedy is someone who has also gone through tragedy.
What advice would you have for other youth participants and fundraisers?
Our advice for other youth participants is to remember who you’re doing this for. Don’t get caught up in if you are the highest team or the best youth participant. Remember who you are doing this for to honor his or her memory.
Click here to donate to Taylor and Allie’s Walk Like MADD team: Team Tyler Sands.
|Grace Knutsen, Allie Sands, Ann Rafeedie, Taylor Sands
at the 2014 Atlanta Walk Like MADD