There are so many things parents worry about every day when it comes to their children, but the fear of the person entrusted to get them to school safely driving drunk should never be one of them.
A school bus driver in Columbus, Ohio, who pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of driving drunk and child endangerment, was recently sentenced to five days in jail. Yes, you read that right. Only five days for endangering the lives of elementary school children on their way home from school.
According to reports, in November, the Columbus police received a call that a school bus was driving erratically, and when they stopped the bus, they found an open bottle of whiskey and a driver with a BAC of .216—more than 3 times the legal limit. The students on the bus reportedly yelled out the windows, “She’s going to kill us! She’s going to kill us,” as they sped through the streets.
No child should ever be put in danger by someone who’s driving drunk, especially when that driver has been entrusted to keep them safe. At MADD, we believe that drunk driving is criminal and irresponsible, and driving drunk with a child passenger is a form of child abuse.
Fortunately in this case, no one was seriously injured, but only five days for risking the lives of innocent children is not an appropriate sentence and does not send the right message about the importance of our children’s safety.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 11 people were killed on our nation’s highways in two wrong-way crashes. Five people, including four University of South Florida fraternity brothers, died in the crash in Tampa, Florida, and six people, including four relatives, were killed in Diamond Bar, California.
Police arrested a 21-year-old female driver on suspicion of driving under the influence in connection to the California crash that killed six. The Florida crash is still under investigation, so it is unknown if drugs or alcohol were involved at this time.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, driver impairment by alcohol was identified by investigators as a factor in 60 percent of fatal wrong-way collisions, and nine percent of wrong-way drivers had been convicted of driving while intoxicated within the three years prior to the wrong-way collision.
Our hearts go out to these families and communities who are dealing with these tragedies. Eleven families now face empty seats at their tables. Their loss is unimaginable – their pain unspeakable.
But we want to get the word out to these families and all affected by substance impaired driving that MADD is here to help. Call 877.MADD.HELP (623.3435) to speak with a trained victim advocate, day or night.
During the State of the Union address, I was overtaken by the admiration the President and entire Congress displayed for Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who was injured in Afghanistan in 2009. In describing Ranger Remsburg’s journey since his injuries, the President talked about the many surgeries and courageous work he has done to move forward. He said that Sgt. Remsburg “never gives up and he never quits.”
My thoughts immediately moved to the thousands of Americans who are similarly injured every year across our country because someone selfishly drove impaired by alcohol or drugs. My heart goes out to each of those individuals, who are bravely facing a different life and digging deep for strength as they struggle with the physical, financial and emotional ramifications of their injuries. In my years with MADD, I have met so many of them and now consider them my friends. I am overwhelmed with deep admiration for their courage and fortitude. Their valor is amazing.
The President concluded his speech by appealing to us to follow this soldier’s lead to never give up. He said, “If we work together, if we summon what is best in us… I know it is within our reach.”
We know that a nation without drunk driving is within our reach. We know how to get there, what needs to be done, and weare doing it. We do it for the thousands of victims who are now forever changed having been victimized by a substance impaired driver. We never give up. We work together and summon what is best in us. I am so very proud to be a part of such a determined courageous family. I admire each of you just as I admire Sgt. Remsburg. You are all my heroes. Thank you for allowing me to walk beside you on our journey.
This month, we’re excited to kick off the 2014 Walk Like MADD season! Walk Like MADD is MADD’s signature event to celebrate a brighter future without drunk driving and underage drinking, as well as honor loved ones killed or injured in drunk driving crashes.
Last year there were 73 Walk events, which raised more than $2.7 million for MADD affiliates and chapters across the country. All funds raised from each Walk stay in the community to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.
If you are unable to attend a Walk because of the date or location, you can still sign up as a virtual walker and raise money to eliminate drunk driving in your community. Whatever way you contribute, your support is greatly appreciated.
Don’t have a Walk near you? More than 30 Walk Like MADD events put on each year across the country are run entirely by volunteers who want to make an impact in the fight against drunk driving in their community. If you are interested in learning more about starting a Walk Like MADD event near you, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We appreciate your support and hope to see you at a Walk Like MADD event this year!
Today, Tennessee Titans Tight End Delanie Walker spent the day talking with media about the NFL season, playing in last year’s Super Bowl, his personal commitment to drunk driving prevention and his partnership with MADD. He did interviews with numerous radio stations and national outlets, including NBC Sports and Sirius Radio, and his main message to football fans is to plan ahead this Super Bowl Sunday — if you’re planning to drink alcohol, make sure you have a non-drinking designated driver or another safe way home, before the game even starts.
MADD is honored to have Delanie share his story in order to raise awareness about the 100 percent preventable crime of drunk driving. Thank you, Delanie, from the MADD family!