By Colonel Ron Replogle, retired Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and member of MADD’s National Board of Directors
I wanted to thank the nearly 800 of you who signed the card in support of law enforcement during National Police Week.
I started with the Missouri State Highway Patrol as a road trooper in 1984 and recently retired as superintendent. From my time in law enforcement, I can say it’s truly special when people like you take the time to say thank you to the officers who help keep the roads safe. Too often the people officers interact with on a daily basis aren’t people like you. Some are angry, abusive, unpredictable, even violent. And the all-too-common use of drugs and alcohol for those under arrest just compounds these issues.
One of my good friends and fellow officers paid the ultimate price because of someone’s decision to drink and drive. There is a stretch of highway U.S. 40 in Missouri named the Corporal Michael E. Webster Memorial Parkway. It’s a tribute to the man who gave his life there while trying to keep that road safe.
On October 2, 1993, Mike was talking with the driver of a vehicle he pulled over when a drunk driver struck his patrol car, then the car he had stopped, then Mike himself. He left behind a wife, a six-year-old daughter, and a 20-month-old son.
I remember investigating crashes, arresting offenders, and bringing the worst possible news to formerly peaceful homes. I still see their faces as surely as I remember Mike’s infectious smile.
But that’s also why I’m proud to have served as a law enforcement officer. We get to protect people and prevent these tragedies. Every drunk or drugged driver that we can pull off the road may mean another life saved. It’s one of the hardest jobs you will ever love.
So I wanted to thank all of you who signed the card or reached out to law enforcement officers last week for National Police Week to thank them for their service. It means a lot to know you are making a difference, large or small, in someone’s life. Thank you for your support.
Colonel Ron Replogle
Fact: wearing your seat belt is one of the best ways to protect yourself from a drunk driver on the road. And with this weekend being Memorial Day weekend, we know there is a good chance more drunk drivers will be on the road – in 2013, 146 people were killed in drunk driving crashes over Memorial Day weekend.
If every person was properly restrained on every trip, thousands of additional lives could be saved by seat belts each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly half of the 21,132 people killed in crashes on our nation’s roadways in 2013 were not wearing their seat belts.
And it’s just as important to buckle up in the back seat. Too many people wrongly believe they are safe in the back seat unrestrained. Half of all front-seat occupants killed in crashes in 2012 were unrestrained, but 61 percent of those killed in back seats were unrestrained.
Regardless of vehicle type, time of day, or seating position, wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to protect yourself in a crash. That’s why through May 31st, law enforcement officers will be stepping up enforcement and cracking down for NHTSA’s 2015 Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign.
The national Click It or Ticket mobilization has increased seat belt use and saved many lives over the years, but there is still much more that can be done. High-visibility enforcement and encouraging loved ones to buckle up can turn lives lost into lives saved. Learn more about the Click It or Ticket mobilization at nhtsa.gov/ciot, and help spread the word!
So this Memorial Day weekend (and every day of the year), make sure to designated a non-drinking driver if your plans include alcohol, and always buckle up.
Next week is National Police Week, and we hope you’ll join us in thanking the officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe on the roadways.
Their sacrifices often go unnoticed… but today, we’re saying ‘thank you’ to these brave heroes. Click here to show your gratitude by signing your name on a special e-card that we’ll present to law enforcement at the end of National Police Week.
High-visibility law enforcement plays a huge role in the fight to end drunk driving. Techniques such as sobriety checkpoints and impaired driving crackdowns have been proven to reduce drunk driving deaths by 20%.
The men and women who enforce these measures put themselves in danger every day to keep us safe. And sometimes they pay the ultimate price—more than 40% of officers killed in the line of duty are killed in traffic crashes. But despite the risk, these heroes make the sacrifice—and make a real difference.
Thank you for showing your support to the brave men and women who protect us every day.
This is by far the hardest blog I’ve written so far as MADD’s National President – both my husband and I had such a hard time getting thru this as we had memories flood our conversations many nights this week...
For those of us who have lost a child, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are painful. My son Dustin was killed by a drunk and drugged driver when he was only 18 years old. So I know the pain.
The difficulty for the victims who survive is whether to allow the memories to flow or to suppress them. The joy of the past often becomes the sorrow of the present because the child we love is no longer here to share in the smiles and laughter.
I remember Dustin’s smile and his laughter. I remember his ability to find the best in everyone. And I remember his ability to brighten a room just by entering it.
I remember when he was only four years old and we were on vacation at Disney World. He didn’t feel well because of too much sun. I also remember how he cried as I held him all the way back to the hotel room. He had been dancing with Minnie Mouse, and he thought he might never see her again.
I remember the day he swung high from a trapeze at a performing arts camp in the Adirondacks. I held my breath as he performed flawlessly. I remember how he thought so hard about what to get for me for Mother’s Day when he only had a few pennies.
I remember the day I put sunscreen on him and I went a little overboard (he was a fair skinned red head). We laughed so hard. Each day as my love for him grew, I never realized our time together would be so short.
When parents die their children are called orphans. When your spouse dies, the remaining partner is a called widow or widower. But when your child dies, there is no word for the parents who are left behind. Children are supposed to bury their parents, not the reverse. It strikes at our very identity as parents. Our job is to give life, to nurture that life and protect it. When our child is killed, it somehow seems that we have failed. Our hopes, dreams and plans are gone.
Grief is unique for each of us. Mine has been lessened by the people at MADD and by my faith. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has taught me how to move from being a victim to being an advocate. My purpose was revealed to me, and I am honored to be the National President of MADD. It gives me strength to turn my grief into action.
I am thankful for the memories. I am grateful that I had Dustin for 18 years, However, I’m still sad. Dustin’s death at the hands of a drunk and drugged driver was 100% preventable, as are more than 10,000 deaths each year. We need to stop this senseless crime and say out loud NO MORE VICTIMS! We need to be heard on Mother’s Day and every other day.
Nathan, Roy II, Kelly, Roy III
On August 1, 2010, an underage drunk driver killed Elroy (Roy) McConnell II and his three sons – Roy III, Nathan, and Kelly. Their deaths left behind three widows, two fatherless children, a grandmother without grandchildren, a young woman without her boyfriend, and other grieving family and friends. The drunk driver was sentenced to 44 years in prison. Through MADD, we hope thousands of lives will be changed by our story.
Amy Voelker: Roy and I were happily married for 20 years, raising his sons Roy and Nathan and our son Kelly. What began as a fun family weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida ended in tragedy beyond anything I could have ever imagined. MADD first supported me by attending the memorial service and sharing information on drunk driving and grieving. Since our crash was away from home in Orlando, I worked with Carole Dirksmeyer, a MADD Victim Advocate for the area where the crash occurred, and she quickly became my lifeline at every court hearing, literally holding my hand and explaining what was happening over the two-year court process. Now I volunteer for MADD as a speaker and participate in Walk Like MADD. Creating a team each year for the Central Florida Walk Like MADD lets me honor my guys by sharing their story, as well as raising money so MADD can reach out to other victims and provide the invaluable assistance they once provided to me. Team “McConnell Men” walked in Central Florida in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. I plan to walk every year until the need for walking is no more. My mom Patricia travels from South Carolina, and my cousin Ginger comes from St. Petersburg, FL to walk with our team.
Patricia Voelker: I’m Amy's mom and Kelly's grandma. My first MADD contact was Traci Thompson, South Carolina’s Victim Services Coordinator. In 2011, I walked on my daughter's team, “Team McConnell Men.” It was a mixed-feelings event. I had not begun the difficult therapy that brought me through the memory of my daughter’s words, “They’re all dead.” I walked to be with Amy but didn’t yet see what the other walkers and I had in common – all we are one all-encompassing team. In 2012, I walked in the Central Florida Walk Like MADD with Amy and at the Indian Rocks Beach Walk Like MADD with my niece, Ginger. Inspired by what I saw, later that year at the Annual MADD Vigil in Columbia, South Carolina, I promised that SC would have a Walk Like MADD in 2013 (not even knowing how to bring that about!). A MADD mother from Charleston and I co-chaired that first Walk Like MADD in SC. Amy drove from Florida to walk with me on “Kelly's Grandma's Team.” In 2014 and 2015, I was chair of the Walk Like MADD in the Midlands of SC, working with Program Director Steven Burritt. Chairing a Walk is hard, rewarding work. Although we hate why we're part of MADD, we're an awesome team, sharing walk experiences and ideas.
Ginger Brengle: Nearly five years ago we lost an entire branch of our family tree. I remember driving to meet my cousin Amy the morning after the crash, unsure of what to expect. As soon as I saw her face, and the faces of the young widows, I knew what I had to do. I became their rock—I made phone calls, made them eat when they weren't hungry, and drove them to the police station for the guys' personal effects. I knew I wanted to do something to prevent others from feeling such pain. August 1, 2011, one year after the crash, I stood vigil at the crash site. We held up signs and talked to anyone who would listen about the dangers of DUI. Each year, the vigil draws more attention, with local media highlighting our story and law enforcement joining the event. That first year, MADD Victim Advocate Carole Dirksmeyer saved our sanity. She was at every court hearing, kept in constant contact, and provided emotional support. I participate in MADD events to repay the benefits of those advocate services. I participate on my local Walk Like MADD committee, and Amy, my aunt Patricia, and I attend each other’s Walk Like MADD events each year. In 2014, the Pinellas County Walk Like MADD was dedicated to our family, and our team “M'n'M's (McConnells 'n' More)” exceeded its fundraising goal! We walk to share our story with the community and to support MADD's programs and services.
Our next Walk Like MADD is on November 21st in Largo, FL. Come walk with us!
|Ginger Brengle, Patricia Voelker,
and Amy Voelker
|Team McConnell Men at the
2015 Central Fl Walk like MADD