By Ron Replogle, MADD National Law Enforcement Initiatives Manager and Retired Missouri State Highway Patrol
In May, I attended the Southwest Missouri Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Springfield, Missouri.
The service is conducted yearly to honor and memorialize the police officers who pay the ultimate sacrifice and are killed in the line of duty during the previous year. A roll call of the officer’s names and their agencies is conducted during the service.
Unfortunately, 128 names were read this year, one of which was Trooper James M. Bava of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the agency I retired from last year. Trooper Bava was only 25 years old, and he had served with the Patrol for just two short years when he died in a crash while trying to overtake a speeding motorcycle.
Sitting in the service, I began to think of the other 30 Missouri State Troopers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice during the MSHP’s 85 year history. Four of those troopers were struck and killed by drunk drivers.
One was Corporal Michael E. Webster, an academy classmate and close friend of mine. Corporal Webster was struck and killed by a drunk driver standing roadside while conducting a traffic stop on US 40 highway in Blue Springs, Missouri on October 2, 1993. He was struck by the drunk driver and carried on the hood of the vehicle for approximately 200 feet before the driver stopped.
Mike was transported to a hospital in Kansas City where he died the following evening. He was only 33 years old and left behind his wife, a 6 year old daughter and a 20 month old son.
Mike was one of those guys that everyone liked and he had an infectious smile. He never met a stranger and had a great career ahead of him. Unfortunately and sadly, that career was cut short and a mother was left alone to raise two young children because someone chose to drink and drive.
I will never forget my friend, Corporal Michael E. Webster, badge #473. Rest in peace brother!
On July 7th, I had the privilege of witnessing roughly 100 Delaware Law Enforcement Officers swear in to the 2016 Checkpoint Strike Force, a six-month campaign aimed at preventing drunk drivers from endangering others or themselves.
An impressive group of attendees gathered together in a solemn but hopeful event. Attendees included Department of Safety & Homeland Security Secretary James N. Mosley, the Attorney General Matt Denn, and Selbyville Police Department Chief Scott Collins, who also serves as 2nd Vice Chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs' Council, and indicated the strong support statewide for this operation.
Seeing the officers take the oath read by the Attorney General gave me hope in a week that is always the most difficult of the year for me.
It is the week of the crash that 12 years ago took the life of my son Dustin.
But knowing these brave men and women were making a commitment to be out in force protecting our public roadways and taking drunk and drugged drivers off the roads, I promised the officers I would be there to honor them.
If there had been a sobriety checkpoint on the night Dustin was killed, he would be with our family today. So, this event, and the Strike Force in which they will serve, was tremendously important, both to me personally and MADD. One of MADD's top priorities is the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®, now in its 10th year.
One thing MADD has learned in 36 years is this: if we truly are to eliminate drunk driving, we need our partners in law enforcement, traffic safety, and government to all work together. We can't do it without them!
Law Enforcement Officers are keeping our communities safe from those who choose to drink and drive. This DUI enforcement campaign in Delaware, which continues through the end of the year, is a critical part of traffic safety.
I believe that together, we will create a nation of NO MORE VICTIMS®.
Drunk and drugged driving destroys families.
It destroyed ours 12 years ago this month when our youngest son Dustin was killed. My husband Skip, our son Casey, and I have survived. But nothing is the same.
When the four of us were together, we had a lot of fun… memorable trips to Disney World, summer vacations to Lake George and Cape Cod. We followed the boys on their athletic pursuits.
But the everyday moments are what I miss the most...Dustin sitting on the floor of the bedroom talking to me about his day…….the simple “I love you” before bed.
Even though you, as a parent, understand that some of those special moments will pass as your child grows, you could always look forward to what the next special moment. And the one after that. And the one after that. Drunk drivers take that away. An offender's selfish decision to drink and drive not only kills people but destroys all the memories that might have been. They are a plague in our society and kill more than 10,000 people every year, injure nearly 200,000 and cost us, as a nation, nearly $200 billion to clean up the mess.
Those are statistics. They’re shocking. But no number compares to the devastation of losing someone you love.
That’s why I’m here as National President of MADD… to try to make a difference, to try to make people understand that we have to fight this scourge. We MUST pass laws that stop this. We MUST adjudicate those laws properly, not suspend sentences in egregious cases that take lives. And personally, I believe we MUST make the decision to never to drink and drive.
My heart is breaking today….my heart cries every time I hear the news of yet another person killed by a drunk/drugged driver….my heart, like all the victims and survivors, needs to heal.
We can win the fight. It won’t be easy. And everyone needs to be a part of it. Our son Dustin can’t be here, but he is still making a difference. Please help us create a future with No More Victims® by donating $18 today in memory of the precious 18 years I had with my boy. Forever 18, forever in my heart.
I will never forget the kiss Dustin gave me in front of Niagara Falls as I held him close. Don't miss the kiss of your loved one. Donate today.
God Bless you and God Bless America.
Every time I have the opportunity to attend an event, it’s exciting and rewarding. That was the case when I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the 2016 Annual Conference of the National Sheriffs Association. It was exciting to see more than 3,000 sheriffs gathering to share and learn. We heard from FBI Director James Comey and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, a founding member of Steeley Dan and the Doobie Brothers, and now a National Security Expert.
It was rewarding to meet and talk with Sheriff John Whetsel with the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office. Twenty six years ago, John's wife Darlene and 2-year-old daughter Rebecca, both innocent bystanders, were killed as the result of a DUI chase. His four-year-old daughter, Stacy, was critically injured.
|Sheriff Whetsel's family before the crash.|
|His surviving daughter after the crash.|
|Sheriff Whetsel with MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church|
As John spoke to the group, I could relate to his message.
Drunk driving crashes are just that - “crashes,” not accidents. His words to live by also struck home. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain."
Living by those words, Sheriff Whetsel has spent much of his life making two important points… treat victims of traffic crashes caused by criminal behavior as victims of crimes. And provide them with needed help and support. He says, “That’s how we can help them learn how to dance in the rain.”
What the Sheriff says is exactly what we do at MADD… and we’ll keep doing it until there are NO MORE VICTIMS®.
Please consider joining our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Ask your friends and family to stop using the "A" word, and let's support innocent victims of this 100% preventable crime.
Late July 4th, 2013, two women lay in neighboring hospital bays side by side, bloody and bruised after a violent car crash. Both were 36 years old, but only one would have the opportunity to turn 37.
One woman – a successful attorney passionately fought for women’s rights, pushed herself to conquer new physical and mental challenges, and acted as a champion in the fight against drunk driving.
The other – a repeat drunk driver with a Driving under the Influence charge nine months prior. She was seen swerving and speeding along an Ohio road before the crash with what was later proven to be a .20 blood alcohol concentration.
Today, we remember Annie Rooney, taken from us on the Fourth of July, what was supposed to be a celebration of our country, our freedoms.
Annie's Law - Ignition Interlocks for all Ohio drunk driving offenders
What she did not have the opportunity to achieve in life – making Ohio roads safe from drunk driving – her family hopes to achieve in her honor. Today, the Rooney’s and other Ohio resident wait in eager anticipation of the passage of Annie’s Law, a bill that would require all drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock. The bill, which passed the House earlier this year, now must pass the Senate.
“Annie would understand that this isn’t a punishment; it’s a public health policy,” said her brother, Walt, who now serves on the national MADD Board. “This is like vaccinating your kids for polio."
“A conviction and an ignition interlock would have saved Annie’s life,” he said. “Drunk driving offenders are a very high-risk group for repeating the offense. Some people say, ‘Well, only a third of them will repeat.’ That’s like saying that only one bullet will kill you, so it’s okay to play Russian roulette.”
Somehow, it’s very fitting that Annie Rooney’s death may prevent drunk driving, as she served as a passionate advocate against the 100% preventable crime in life. She worked as a prosecuting attorney in Montana, often raising her voice against a cultural of complacency and judges who didn’t appreciate the severity of drunk driving.
She understood the dangers. Her father, a surgeon in Ohio, regularly saw the damage done by drunk driving, and he made sure to take that message home to his kids. In fact, he recommended she drive a suburban, as it has enhanced safety features.
But it wasn’t enough to save her that July 4th.
Annie, an avid mountain biker who was looking for a sponsor to continue excelling at the sport, was driving home after picking up a bike at a friend’s house. The offender was going 100 miles per hour, resulting in several people calling into the police to report her erratic driving. An off-duty officer also pursued her because he witnessed her driving at dusk with no lights on through a school zone.
Eventually, she crossed the center line on Highway 50. Annie tried to swerve. The offender t-boned Annie’s car near the front wheel on the driver’s side. If it had been a head-on impact, Annie might have survived.
Her mother, sitting at home watching television, heard about a crash. She texted her daughter to watch out for it. The text was later found on Annie’s phone, unread.
A witness immediately stopped. Annie was in pain but conscious, and she remained so for the next 90 minutes as first responders tried to pry her out of the vehicle. She was taken to the hospital where her father had worked previously, where it was decided to move her to a trauma center.
Upon her arrival at the trauma center, as her younger sister and father stood watching, Annie went into cardiac arrest.
“My younger sister has been traumatized. It destroyed her life,” Walt said. “Annie moved back home a year before the crash to take care of our parents. They haven’t been able to get passed it.”
While Annie’s Law has failed to pass once before, the Rooney’s remain optimistic. After all, it’s what Annie would have done.
“Annie had a sense of optimism that you don’t often meet. She was always trying to find the positive people,” said Walt. “That inspired me. It wasn’t how I looked at the world. She lived very intensely. She was driven to help people who didn’t have a voice.”
Now, Walt and her family will serve as the voice for Annie and all drunk driving victims. If you'd like to join with the Rooney family, please consider donating today. It's the last day of the Uber match, where Uber DOUBLES all donations up to $25,000.