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A Night I Will Never Forget
By Guest Blogger | December 18, 2013 | Filed in: Victim Services , Underage Drinking , Drunk Driving

Guest blog by Taylor Childers, a member of MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group.

April 5, 2008 is a night I will never forget.

My best friend Tia, her father and myself were hit head on by an underage impaired driver. Tia's father and I were seriously injured.  My dear friend Tia was killed. I will never forget that horrific evening. First responders did not even see Tia down towards the floor at my legs, but I did.

Taylor Childers

After four long years dealing with the criminal justice system the case was completed in 2012, which now allows me to share the details of my crash.  Hopefully my story will convince youth of the seriousness of underage drinking. I never thought as a youth that I would be a victim, let alone someone from my own school district. 

I miss my best friend Tia every day, and don’t want anyone else to experience this tragic loss.  

My goals for the year in order are to establish activities for Red Ribbon Week, coordinate a SADD chapter for my high school, and to present my victim testimony to schools and community organizations as often as I can.

I hope to be a positive influence to my peers and teach them that alcohol can wait.  There are so many other things that we can do to fill our time, alcohol are just not necessary.  

This holiday season, please remember that the 21 drinking age law saves lives.  Please do not buy or provide alcohol to anyone underage, and always remember to start with the end in mind.  If you are over 21 and plan on drinking, designate a driver so everyone can have a happy holiday!

Life Sentence for Family, Probation for Teen
By MADD | December 17, 2013 | Filed in: Victim Services , Underage Drinking , Drunk Driving

Last week, a 16-year-old Texas teen was sentenced to 10 years' probation but no jail time for killing four people and injuring several others while driving drunk.  His defense?  He suffered from affluenza, a condition where because of his family’s wealth, he couldn’t appreciate that his actions have consequences.

Like many of you, we were appalled and shocked by the court’s decision. These victim families have been given a lifelong sentence of grief and loss, and the young man who caused this pain walks away with probation. We are concerned that this sentence sends the wrong message to others about the crimes of drunk driving and underage drinking, which are both extremely dangerous and 100 percent preventable.

Sadly, we can’t change the legal outcome of this case, but we will continue to support these families who feel victimized all over again – this time by the justice system that they trusted to do the right thing. We have also reached out to the judge who handed down the sentence and requested a meeting to discuss how the sentencing of offenders impacts how society views the crime of drunk driving. 

Our hope is that this case reignites the conversation about the tragic realities of drunk driving and the continuing battle we must wage every day to ensure that our courts treat it as the violent crime that it is. That is why we continue to expand our court monitoring program across the country, to encourage a criminal justice system that is transparent and accountable for its actions.

A court monitor sits in on court proceedings and records the outcome. MADD then uses these reports to detect patterns and track discrepancies in how DUI laws are being applied. But we could use your help.  We largely rely on volunteers to perform this very important task.  If you would like volunteer as a court monitor, fill out and submit our online volunteer application. 

You can also become a sustaining donor to help expand this program to all 50 states. 

MADD Joins NHTSA to Eliminate Drunk Driving this Holiday Season
By MADD | December 17, 2013 | Filed in: Drunk Driving

Today, MADD National President Jan Withers joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, along with other traffic safety organizations and local law enforcement officers to kick-off this year’s holiday crackdown campaign.  Jan, along with victim/survivor Gene Gallagher, whose daughter, Katlin Marie, died in a drunk driving crash on New Year’s Day 2012, shared their stories, putting a face on this 100 percent preventable crime.

NHTSA’s signature campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, is an effective tool to deter the would-be drunk driver from driving drunk.  MADD supports this program and calls on every state to conduct sobriety checkpoints during this campaign. Sobriety checkpoints are a key component of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® and a proven countermeasure to save lives on our roads.

Data shows that the holiday season is a particularly deadly time due to the increased number of drunk drivers on the roads. During last year’s Christmas holiday, 134 people died in drunk driving crashes. This represents 37 percent of traffic deaths, compared with 31 percent on average for the year. Additionally, over the New Year Holiday, 140 people were killed in drunk driving crashes—39 percent of the total people killed in traffic crashes.

At a time when families across the nation are coming together to celebrate with family and friends, MADD urges everyone to:

We wish you and your loved ones a happy and safe holiday season!

Why We’re Here: The Bassi Family
By MADD | December 4, 2013 | Filed in: Victim Stories , Drunk Driving

Denise and Gerard Bassi

On Christmas morning in 2007, Denise and Gerard Bassi called their daughter, Melanie, to wish her a Merry Christmas.  For the first time, the Bassis and their three daughters, Melanie, Jennifer and Michelle, weren’t spending Christmas day together because Denise and Gerard were spending the holiday with Denise’s parents in Florida, and their daughters were unable to make the trip.

The Bassis celebrated Christmas with their daughters a week early, before they headed out of town a few days before Christmas. While in Florida, they spoke often with their daughters and each day of their trip had fun stories to tell—they were having a great time.

Christmas day, on the way to a family member’s house for dinner, they were stopped at a traffic light when a 34-year old man driving at a very high rate of speed smashed into the rear of their truck – “like a missile into a building” as one witness described it. 

Gerard Bassi died at the scene, Denise died a few hours later in surgery, and Denise’s mother, Linda McWilliams, died a week later from her injuries.  Denise’s father, Ray McWilliams, survived, but the crash caused permanent injuries that greatly affected his life. 

Linda and Ray McWilliams

The man who hit them not only survived, but had no major injuries. He was driving under the influence of alcohol, Xanax, and cocaine, and this was not the first time he was arrested for DUI.   

Though the offender was arrested shortly after the crash, pretrial went on for years and the criminal trial was postponed twice.  Finally, the trial was set to begin on August 23, 2011.  The offender was facing approximately 35 years to life in prison.  Exactly one week prior to the start of the trial, he pled guilty to the DUI charges and was sentenced to 12 years in jail followed by 10 years of probation.

“Not only is there the immediate loss, the sting of losing so many loved ones, but the long fight for justice was frustrating and grueling,” said Melanie Bassi.

The family was connected with a MADD victim advocate in Florida, who provided victim services during the trial. Melanie says, “Working with MADD was extremely helpful and I greatly appreciate their support. “

Melanie now shares the story of how her life changed in an instant as a speaker for MADD.  Among other activities with MADD, she speaks at Victim Impact Panels and school programs and says it is her way of giving back.

This holiday season, please keep victims like the Bassi family in mind as you celebrate with friends and loved ones. Always plan ahead with a non-drinking designated driver and remind others to do the same. 

The Bassi Family


The Season of Light
By Jan Withers | December 4, 2013 | Filed in: National President , Victim Services , Drunk Driving , General

This is the holiday season. It represents a time of joy and a time of hope. It is a season of light. However, a heart recently broken by the death of a loved one can often feel even more darkness and emptiness during these days that we think should bring moments of celebration.  

I remember the first holidays following Alisa’s death, feeling as if there were no light at the end of the tunnel. Hope? That was a four-letter word. How could I smile or feel warmth and joy when such a huge hole was now forced on my heart and our family?

For some of you whose grief may be fresh, it is hard to see hope during these dark days. However, I do know your love endures for the person you grieve.  It knows no bounds. Hang on to that love. It is your ray of hope, and it will serve you well until you can smile again.

Our loved ones are forever part of our hearts.  As we remember them over the holidays, I ask you to think about the light that was in them – that is now in you – that you can share with others. You can share that light, even with the pain in you. They live on through us. What a beautiful way to honor them, by sharing their love, and the joy they gave us with others. What a gift that is. It is a shining star in the darkness, and in that I see hope.

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