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Without Mom on Mother’s Day
By Jan Withers | May 6, 2014 | Filed in: National President , Drugged Driving , Drunk Driving

Little Landon lives without his mommy, DeAnna Tucker. She was killed by a drunk driver in 2011 while buckling him in his car seat. She had just spent the last few minutes of her life looking at her wedding gown in a bridal shop.

This year, just like the last two, Landon will not be able to hand his mommy a sweet bouquet of flowers or a priceless card with his drawing on it for Mother’s Day.  Instead, he may lay flowers by her grave. 

He came to the capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi on April 23rd with his grandparents, Chief Alan and Barbara Weatherford, to witness Governor Phil Bryant sign into law a bill that requires any convicted drunk driver with a BAC of .08 or greater who obtains driving privileges during a license suspension to use an interlock.  It was an emotional day for Alan and Barbara as they watched their brave grandson be embraced by Speaker Philip Gunn, who was instrumental in getting the bill passed.  Speaker Gunn’s own mother, father and sister were also killed by a drunk driver in 1988 and, as he said to me, “leaving me entirely alone.”          

Speaker Gunn, seeing the picture of Landon’s mother on a button he was wearing, leaned down and asked him all about her.  He then escorted Landon and Chief Weatherford to the House Chamber, even sitting Landon in the Speaker’s Chair. Landon had his baseball with him and is very proud of being a pitcher.  He happens to be left-handed.  Speaker Gunn shared with Landon that his son is also a left-handed pitcher, playing for the Memphis Tigers. Their instant deep bond was palpable. They now have an unspoken connection that will last their lifetimes.  Notice in the official photo Speaker Gunn’s hands on Landon’s shoulders at the bill signing. 

This Mother’s Day, let’s remember and cherish the thousands of children who have been left motherless because of substance-impaired drivers.  Let’s recommit our determination to doing everything we can to eliminate this scourge from our roadways so that Landon’s children will know a nation without drunk driving.

Remembering the Kentucky Bus Crash Victims
By MADD | May 5, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Services , Drunk Driving

On May 14, 1988, a repeat DUI offender with a .24 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) headed the wrong way down the highway in a pickup truck and slammed into a bus that was returning from a church trip to Kings Island Amusement Park. The fiery crash killed 24 children, the bus driver and two adult chaperones, and injured 34 others. Six other passengers made it off the bus uninjured, but still carry the emotional scars from that day.

To this day, it remains the worst drunk driving crash in U.S. history.  It changed the way this country looked at the issue, and spurred key reforms at the national and local level… and yet, 26 years later, there are still more than 10,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands more injured each year because of this 100 percent preventable crime.

Last year, as a part of the 25th anniversary of the crash, we partnered with the filmmakers behind a feature documentary film, IMPACT: AFTER THE CRASH, which tells some of the powerful stories of loss and healing through interviews with many of the crash survivors and victims’ family members.

Impact: After The Crash Trailer 2013
from jason epperson on Vimeo.

Impact, LLC is continuing to support victim and survivors of drunk driving by donating $1 for each DVD of the documentary film sold to MADD.  Click here to learn more about the film on the IMPACT: AFTER THE CRASH website.

Click here to see photos of the 27 people who were killed in the crash.

Click here to see photos from last year’s memorial event.

Why We’re Here: Helen Marie Witty
By MADD | May 2, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Stories , Drugged Driving , Underage Drinking , Drunk Driving

On June 1, 2000 in Miami, Florida, 16-year-old Helen Marie Witty – known as H.M. to her friends and family – decided to take advantage of the sunny afternoon and go rollerblading.  She was on a designated bike path when she was hit and killed by a 17-year-old drunk driver.  Helen Marie died instantly.

The driver spent the afternoon binge drinking and smoking marijuana at a friend's house, before she left in a hurry, heading home in time to get money from her parents before they left town on a trip.  She was traveling 60 mph in a 30 mph speed zone and lost control of the car. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.09 at the scene of the crash.

She was sentenced to 6 years with 10 years’ probation, and was ordered to speak to students while incarcerated.  After her release from prison, she was deported.

Helen Marie was a straight-A student, vice president of her class and belonged to three honor societies.  She was passionate about theater and dreamed of Broadway.  She was planning to direct the opening night of a school play the following night.  Her tragic death devastated the community.

Helen Marie’s mother, also named Helen, says that after the crash, life became instantly incomprehensible.  The emotions were physical and too painful to describe.  But she found a way to manage her grief with the help of faithful friends, through therapy and volunteering with MADD.  After 10 years as a volunteer, she is now a full-time program specialist for MADD Miami Dade County.

Nearly fourteen years later, Helen Marie’s loved ones still gather each year for the Miami Walk Like MADD to celebrate her life and honor her memory.  This past February, Helen Marie’s Hikers was one of the top fundraising teams.

Helen Marie and her mom Helen

Click here to read Helen Witty’s guest blog about surviving Mother’s Day after losing a child.

South Carolina Enacts Emma’s Law
By MADD | May 1, 2014 | Filed in: Drunk Driving

Six-year-old Emma Longstreet’s memory will live on as Senate Bill 137 – “Emma’s Law” – was signed into law by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley yesterday.  The Longstreet family has worked tirelessly to get legislation passed in the state since Emma was killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day 2012. 

There for the signing were Emma’s parents David and Karen Longstreet, MADD CEO Debbie Weir and other MADD South Carolina volunteers. 

Click here to watch video of the event.

“The passage of this bill ensures that Emma’s name will live on forever and it puts South Carolina in a position of national leadership in DUI enforcement,” said Emma’s father. “I want to thank MADD, Governor Haley, and all of South Carolina for supporting us throughout this process.”

The law expands the punishment for all convicted drunk drivers. Under Emma’s Law, all offenders, including first-time offenders, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or greater will be mandated to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle they drive for a period of six months. Additionally, first-time offenders with a BAC of .08 to .14 may elect to use an interlock in order to drive with no geographic restrictions in lieu of a license suspension.  In the event of a repeat offense, the convicted drunk driver with a BAC of .08 and above will be required to install an ignition interlock device to drive. 

Requiring all convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks to prove they are sober before they can start their vehicles has been shown to save lives and stop drunk driving. Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana, have seen a reduction in DUI deaths by 33 to 46 percent, largely due to these comprehensive laws requiring all drunk drivers to receive an interlock.

Not every state is protected by these lifesaving laws, so find out if your state requires ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders and take action.

Learn more about ignition interlocks and the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®.

DRIVE THE LANE Celebrity Basketball Game
By MADD | April 28, 2014 | Filed in: Drunk Driving

On Saturday, April 26, celebrities and hometown heroes took to the court at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Florida for a friendly, yet competitive game of basketball. Sports greats, Earnest Graham, Jeff Dellenbach, Jevon Kearse, Daunte Culpepper, Deonte Thompson, Micah Rucker and Antonio Freemen along with hometown heroes from the Lee County Sheriff’s department, Collier County Sheriff’s Department, Lee and Collier County School Districts, the Lee County Fire Department and local businesses displayed their skills on the court in support of MADD’s PowerTalk 21—the campaign encouraging parents to talk with their children about the dangers of underage drinking. 

Early on in the first quarter, Daunte Culpepper passed the ball to former division rival, Antonio Freeman resulting in the first points of the game, establishing the tone of teamwork.  The Freak, Jevon Kearse, gave respect to his hometown with area code ‘239’ as his number.  The Red team quickly took the lead and dominated the game with Earnest Graham scoring a three-pointer and assisting in an alley-oop from Dwayne Jackson.

This is the first year of this anticipated annual event in Southwest Florida. MADD Advisory Board Member, Cheryl Scheiner came up with the idea to have a large-scale event commemorating PowerTalk 21. Cheryl and her husband Bruce are long-time advocates for MADD. 

Cheryl  met with local business and community leaders to pose the question, “How can we get parents talking with their children about the dangers of underage drinking?” The answer was an event that employed positive environmental strategies and role models to build a family-friendly event that incorporated MADD’s Power of Parents program .

At the game, over 900 fans were encouraged to sign pledges in support of MADD’s underage drinking initiatives and received an “I Pledged” sticker.  Also present were community partners offering healthy prevention activities during the pre-game, family-friendly tailgate party.  The YMCA of Fort Myers, Lee Memorial Health Systems, ArtFest Fort Myers, AAA, Associates and Bruce L Scheiner, Florida Highway Patrol, Stay Alive Just Drive and Department of Juvenile Justice participated.

Many thanks to our sponsors: The New Home Spot, Inc., Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Waterman Broadcasting, Millennium Physicians Group, Victory Layne Chevrolet, Arthrex, AAAsouth, Law Offices of Shawn Seliger and Seminole Casino Immokalee.

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