By Donna McCain, whose daughter Meagan was killed in a drunk driving crash in 2009.
The first Thanksgiving and Christmas after our daughter Meagan was killed by a drunk driver was spent basically in a state of shock. We had seen Meagan off for her second year of college on a pre-dawn morning in August, 2009 and five days later received the news that she would not return home. Meagan and three college friends were hit head-on by a wrong way drunk driver on Interstate 40. It seemed that the holidays rolled relentlessly toward us while I was needing time itself to stop so that I could find my bearings again.
During the six Christmas’s that we have faced without her, it has been very important to us to keep her presence real. We have special ornaments on our tree in her memory and continue to use the ones we collected as she was growing up. One of Meagan’s grandmothers sponsors a needy child and we all look for ways to help others in both large and small ways in her memory. Mark and I focus on our families, especially the nieces and nephews, during the holidays but all of our family includes “Meagan stories” as we visit. I feel like this is the most important thing we do to not only remember her, but to cope with the emotions of the holidays without her.
Meagan is always mentioned during the prayer before our special holiday meals, even though it leaves most everyone a little choked up. We are truly blessed to have family and friends who speak Meagan’s name freely whenever we are together. While I cannot say that the holidays have been easy (or ever will be), we have continued to adjust to the new reality and learn coping skills for dealing with the unique emotions of life after Meagan. Five years and counting after her death, we are focusing on celebrating her life, the joy of who she was and each moment of the (almost) twenty years that we had with her.
Surviving the Holidays
Each person has a unique grief journey that is dependent on their own personality and the relationship they had with the person who was taken. Each of us must find the way through that is best for us. I will share some things that have helped me and my family in the hopes that it will help you in walking your own journey or in understanding the journey of other family members or friends.
Find ways to honor and remember the person who was lost. Choose a special ornament for the tree or light a candle in their memory during your holiday celebrations. Let people know that you would enjoy having them share stories that include the one who is missing. Perform acts of charity in honor of your loved one such as sponsoring a needy child or helping feed the homeless.
Choose the traditions you would feel comfortable in continuing and the ones that you need to skip. Participating in “normal” holiday activities can help to distract from the loss for a time. But choosing the activities is important because some will be too difficult to handle in the first year but may become easier in subsequent years. Ease into situations to see what you can handle, carry a friend or family member with you for support and know that you can always leave if it becomes too much. If you are worried about your emotions become overwhelming, give the host a call ahead of time to let them know that you may need to exit without warning.
Spend time with the people who matter the most to you. Losing Meagan made me much more conscious of the fragile nature of life and the importance of savoring every opportunity you have to be with family and friends who mean the most to you. These are also the people who will best understand and share the grief that you are experiencing and can help you celebrate their life. Focusing on others will provide a distraction from missing your loved one and the traditions that you enjoyed with them.
Allow yourself time for grieving. Give yourself permission to exit the hectic holiday rush and find quiet time. Often, our intense emotions are triggered unexpectedly, especially during the holidays. It is okay if you need to cry or to walk away and find a quiet place for a while. Those who matter will understand. Cut yourself some slack and do the same for other family members who are walking their own journey.
Understand that the holidays will never be the same again but that you can find a new way to spend this special season so that it can still be a positive and meaningful time of the year.
|McCain Family, Christmas 2006|
We are excited to announce the 2014 Legislative Champions. MADD recognizes 81 lawmakers for their tireless work and commitment to saving lives and advancing MADD’s mission.
Representative Allen Farley and Senator Bill Holtzclaw authored HB 381 and SB 319 which was enacted earlier this year making Alabama the 21st state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law.
The legislature passed S 465 making major improvements to the state’s ignition interlock law. This new law is due to the leadership of: Representative Al Adinolfi, Senator Dante Bartomeleo, Senator Eric Coleman, Senator Leonard Fasano, Representative Daniel Fox, Representative Gerald Fox III, Representative Themis Klarides, Senator Gayle Slossberg, Senator Martin Looney, Representative Richard Smith and Representative Lezlye Zupkus.
Thanks to S 465, more than 6,500 first-time drunk drivers will now be required to install ignition interlock devices. The leadership of Senator Eric Coleman and Representative Gerry Fox and co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee Representatives Dan Fox and Fred Smith was instrumental in the passage of this legislation.
Colorado lawmakers worked on a variety of drunk driving reform legislation. Sen. Mike Johnston authored SB 213 adding extra penalties in hit and run crashes and HB 1036 creating a DUI felony law for repeat offenders. Representatives Mark Waller and Rep. Lori Saine also authored DUI felony law legislation HB 1036. Representative Kathleen Conti authored the hit run legislation SB 213.
Representative Polly Lawrence authored HB 1158 creating minimum sentences in Vehicular Homicide and Assaults. Representative Bob Gardner served as a co-chair of the Victims Rights caucus. Representative Rhonda Fields also served as co-chair of this caucus and authored HB 1148 improving the Victims' Rights Act and hit & run legislation SB 213.
Senator Cheri Jahn authored HB 1148 improving the Victims’ Right Act. Representative Dave Young authored legislation HB 1321 expanding the duties of the Interagency Task Force on Impaired Driving. Representative KC Becker opposed HB 1132 which would have created different bar closing times in municipalities throughout the state as opposed to one uniform closing time.
Senate Majority Leader David McBride, Representative Helene Keeley and Representative Stephen Smyk authored HB 212 which made Delaware the 24th state to enact an all-offender ignition interlock law. Passage of this type of law is MADD’s highest state legislative priority.
Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Representatives Bryan Nelson and Representative Irv Slosberg led efforts to enact the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act which creates extra penalties for hit and run drivers. The law is named after a bicyclist who was killed in 2012 in a hit and run crash by a driver who later admitted to consuming alcohol. The law requires the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash that results in serious bodily injury to a person to immediately stop the vehicle and remain at the scene of the crash and provides extra penalties in hit and run crashes.
Lawmakers enacted legislation, HB 1279, to require interlocks for repeat offenders and allow judges to order the devices for first-time offenders. Representative Cindy Kirchhofer authored HB 1344 which was incorporated in the amended version of HB 1279, which also establishes a statewide regulatory framework for ignition interlocks. HB 1279 provides the structure and context for future improvements to Indiana’s ignition interlock program.
Senator Pete Miller authored a social host bill SB 28 expanding penalties for those who provide alcohol those under the legal drinking age of 21. This legislation is critical to help protect Indiana’s young people.
House Judiciary Chairman Chip Baltimore led efforts on ignition interlock legislation in 2014 in the House with HF 571 and HF 2429. In the Senate, Senator Chris Brase led efforts on interlock legislation along with Senator Brian Schoenjahn who authored all-offender interlock bills SF 2103 and 2299. Although, the House and Senate passed separate all-offender interlock measures, none passed the full legislature. MADD hopes lawmakers take action in 2015 on this lifesaving legislation.
Senator Schoenjahn also authored social host bill SF 2310 which was enacted expanding penalties for those who provide alcohol to those under the legal drinking age of 21.
In 2011, Kansas lawmakers enacted an all-offender interlock law, but the law had a sunset (or end) date of 2015. Under the leadership of Representative John Rubin and Senator Jeff King, lawmakers enacted legislation HB 2427 making the Kansas all-offender interlock law permanent. Since the law went into effect in 2011, drunk driving deaths in the state have dropped by 30 percent.
Representative Dennis Keene authored HB 61 which would have required ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. MADD will work again with Representative Keene in 2015 to advance this legislation. Representative Julie Raque Adams authored HB 347 eliminating the option of judges granting “shock probation” for offenders convicted of killing in a DUI crash. Shock probation allows judges to reduce sentences of convicted drunk drivers who cause the deaths of victims. Kentucky is one of only six states that allows for the practice of shock probation.
Representative Tim Marks authored LD 1760, which became law, closing loopholes in the state’s drunk driving law. The new law extends the look back period for repeat offenders who may have a previous DUI felony on their record. The new law allows prosecutors to look back further than ten years on a record, which was the previous law. Now, prosecutors can look back further than ten years to see if the offender had previous DUI felonies on their record.
Delegate Sam Arora authored HB 1015 requiring the use of ignition interlocks for DUI offenders who drive drunk with a child passenger in a vehicle. HB 1015 passed the general assembly and was signed into law this year.
Leadership from Speaker Philip Gunn, Senator Hopson and Representatives Andy Gipson and Kevin Horan proved to be instrumental in the passage of HB 412 making Mississippi the 22nd state to enact an all-offender ignition interlock law.
Representative Stephen Shurtleff authored HB 496, which was passed by lawmakers making New Hampshire the 23rd state to enact an all-offender ignition interlock law.
Senator Nicholas Scutari authored legislation S 385 and Assemblywoman Linda Stender authored A 1368, which requires ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. Both bills are pending a Senate floor vote in December.
Senator John DeFrancisco and Assemblyman Samuel Roberts authored Vince’s Law (S 7108/A 8021A). This legislation, which became law in November, extends the look back period to 15 years so third-time offenders can be charged with a felony punishable up to seven years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The bill is named for 82-year-old Vincent Russo who was on his way to Sunday morning mass when he struck head-on by a drunk driver and later died from his injuries. It was later discovered that the driver's BAC was four times the legal level, and that he was free awaiting sentencing for a fifth DWI violation.
Representative Kim Thatcher, Representative Jeff Barker, Representative Jim Thompson and Senator Rod Monroe helped protect Oregon’s ignition interlock law by helping to defeat HB 4026 which, if enacted, would weaken the lifesaving ignition interlock law.
MADD National President Jan Withers, Representative Kim Thatcher,
and MADD President Elect Colleen Sheehey Church
Senator John Rafferty authored multiple drunk driving reform bills including Liam’s Law (SB 1381) named after 24-year-old Liam Crowley who was killed by a seven time convicted drunk driver. The offender only was sentenced to three years—the same amount of time an offender with no previous convictions would face if he or she killed someone in a crash. This proposal allows for longer sentences for repeat offenders who cause a fatal drunk driving crash.
Senator Rafferty also authored SB 1239, which passed the legislature and was signed into law, fixing two loopholes created by Supreme Court decisions in Pennsylvania. SB 1239 fixed the 2009 Haag v. Commonwealth decision which created a loophole where a drunk driver arrested multiple times prior to conviction and have each offense count as a first conviction as opposed to multiple convictions. This loophole allows repeat offenders to fall through the cracks. SB 1239 also corrects an error from Commonwealth v. Masau, which limits the punishment for repeat offenders who refuse a chemical test. The decision limits the punishment to a maximum of six months which is less than the current punishments who submit to a chemical test. SB 1289 would reestablish the penalty for a second time refusal as a misdemeanor in the first degree with a maximum of five years of incarceration.
Finally, Senator Rafferty authored SB 1036 requiring ignition interlocks for all repeat and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of .10 or greater. Late in the 2014 session, SB 1036 was amended onto HB 1357 and passed the Senate unanimously.
Representative David Hickernell authored HB 1769 creating mandatory server training for any person who serves alcohol. The legislation was introduced after Morgan Elizabeth Long, the daughter Morgan of Susan Menges, was killed by a drunk driver.
In 2014, Rhode Island enacted a law requiring interlocks for all repeat and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or greater. This new law in thanks to the leadership of: Senator V. Susan Sosnowski, Representative Gregg Amore, Representative Michael J. Marcello, Representative Raymond E. Gallison, Jr., Senator Michael J. McCaffrey, Representative Cale Keable, Senator M. Theresa Paiva Weed, Senator Maryellen Goodwin, Senator Stephen R. Archambault, Representative Nicholas A. Mattiello and Representative J. Patrick O’Neill.
Emma’s Law (S 137) requires ignition interlocks for all repeat and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or greater. Emma’s Law was authored by Senator Joel Lourie and helped pass the legislature thanks to the leadership of: Representatives L. Kit Spires, Rick Quinn and Eddie Tallon, Todd Atwater, David Weeks, Ralph Kennedy, and James Smith and Senators Larry Martin, Senator Mike Fair, Senator Ronnie Cromer, and Senator Brad Hutto. The law is named after six-year-old Emma Longstreet who was killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day in 2012.
Senator Robert Beach authored SB 434 improving the state’s all-offender interlock law allowing offenders to immediately go an interlock following a DUI.
Thank you to all of those who help our mission become a reality. And a special thanks to these legislators who make it their job to keep our nation’s roads safe.
The month of December is one of the busiest on the nation’s roadways, and also one of the most dangerous. With the holidays coming up, there will be an increase in social events that involve alcohol, and data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that this results in an increase in DUIs and fatal drunk-driving crashes around the holidays.
During December 2012, 830 people lost their lives in crashes involving a drunk driver.
That’s why December has been designated National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. In issuing his proclamation, President Obama urges every American to “dedicate ourselves to driving safely and responsibly, and to promoting these behaviors among our family and friends.” Click here to read the proclamation.
No one thinks that their holiday celebration will end in tragedy. But for those who include alcohol in their celebrations and then get behind the wheel, this is too often the case.
MADD has these tips to help ensure everyone’s safety this holiday season:
- Make sure to always plan ahead for a safe way home, especially if your plans involve alcohol. Even one too many drinks increases the risk of a crash—it’s just not worth it. If you’ve been drinking use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member or use public transportation.
- If someone you know is drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Your actions may save someone’s life. Click here to review our tips on how to prevent someone from driving drunk.
- Just because you made the right decision to drive sober, others on the road may not have. Always buckle up, drive with caution, and don’t hesitate to call 911 to report a suspected drunk driver. It is your business. Getting drunk drivers off the roads saves lives.
And don’t forget... you can also do your part to remind others to designate a non-drinking driver by displaying one of our Tie One on for Safety ribbons. Contact your local office to find out how to get a red ribbon for your car.
The time has come—it’s #GivingTuesday, and our ambitious goal of eliminating the senseless crime of drunk driving begins with you.
Giving Tuesday is a time to give back to the causes you care about, and to honor this tradition, we’ve partnered with Nationwide so you can make the most of your year-end gift.
Your support could not come at a more important time—we can’t do this without you! When you make your year-end matching gift, you will help continue our legacy by funding projects like:
- Passing offender ignition interlock laws in every state possible
- Supporting the first DADSS test vehicle that can’t be driven drunk, launching next year and bringing awareness to drunk driving
- Increasing our capacity to help victims and their families heal from the horrible crime of drunk driving
Please double your impact with a gift to MADD this holiday season—your support will save lives in 2015.
MADD West Texas recently unveiled their new Tree of Life Memorial Wall at their office to honor victims and survivors of drunk driving:
Memorial Wall Dedication
The Memorial Wall expressed by this painting is dedicated to all victims killed and survivors injured in a drunk or drugged driving crash.
The center of the painting is tree from the roots to the branches; the tree is the MADD’s Tree of Life. The foundation of a tree is the roots and trunk; in this painting it represents family and branches represents friends. Each individual leaf represents the victims and survivors whose lives have been lost or changed by injury. The different colors of the leaves signify the diverse walks of life. The background colors; blue, green, orange and red are the season of grief, that also signifies the time of year in which a crash, death, injury occurred.
e photographs and faces of each victim or survivor are unique and they are remembered forever in our hearts and on MADD’s Tree of Life.
– Javier Luna, Artist