October was filled with trips around the country, including one to Chicago, where there was much more than a brisk autumn breeze off Lake Michigan. The Windy City was filled with more than 14,000 law enforcement professionals from around the world attending the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference and Exhibition.
While the topics were as numerous and varied as the attendees themselves, I was struck by one unifying force. Every one of the men and women in attendance are a part of the ongoing fight for public safety. During the Victim Services and Highway Safety Committee meetings it became clear, everyone at this conference has seen the devastation that drunk and drugged driving brings to families, communities, and the economy. Most of all, each first responder is a hero for their work to create a future of no more victims.
In the upcoming months, these 14,000 and millions more like them around the world will be facing the most challenging time of the year for drunk driving… the holidays. In 2013, in the few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, 846 people were killed by drunk drivers in the United States. 161 died over the New Year’s holiday (Eve and Day), with 44 on New Year’s Day alone, the deadliest day of the year for drunk driving.
Those numbers are tragic. But they would be far worse if it weren’t for the efforts of law enforcement officers. Not only do their high visibility campaigns like “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” serve as a constant reminder to the public, but their never-ending presence on the roadways protects all of us. That’s why MADD calls them heroes. They are. And we’re thankful for everything they do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
All of these thoughts were with me as I looked out the window of the plane during take-off at O’Hare airport and headed for my next event in Washington, DC. I was inspired by the group of men and women who work every day to end drunk driving. It made me want to do more. I hope you’ll join me in the fight. Each one of us can play a role and I encourage you to play yours.
At MADD, we know the holidays are a time for fun and celebration; and, for some adults, that includes events where alcohol is served. We want to urge everyone 21 and over to plan ahead this holiday season and year-round – by designating a non-drinking driver, using public transportation, a taxi, a service like Uber or Lyft – for the benefit of everyone’s public safety. Together, we can make sure everyone enjoys the holidays – this year and every year.
For the past 13 years, officers, employees, friends, and families of the Irving Police Department have participated in the annual Walk Like MADD event in Dallas, TX. This is an event that the Irving Police Department has been proud to say that we’ve held the title of “top law enforcement team” for 13 consecutive years. To date, we have raised over $70,000.00 to help MADD’s efforts to support victim’s assistance, activism, and youth alcohol awareness programs.
The IPD team was formed to honor Irving’s first officer killed in the line of duty—Officer Glenn Homs #518. Officer Homs was tragically struck and killed by a drunk driver on July 3, 1993. Participating in the walk is a way of remembering Officer Homs’ sacrifice to the citizens of Irving and recognizing the dangers of drunk driving. The IPD team sells team t-shirts to help raise funds for MADD and to “stand out” in the crowd on the day of the event.
The IPD MADD Walk team has gone under the name “Zero Tolerance” for the past 13 years and is headed up by the Department’s DWI Unit. The DWI Unit is staffed with 5 full-time members and 1 Sergeant. We chose this name to represent how the men and women of the Irving Police Department tackle drunk driving throughout the City…with zero tolerance!
We do a variety of proactive enforcement presentations, youth alcohol awareness talks, and fatal vision demonstrations throughout the City to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. The DWI Unit’s efforts to reduce alcohol related fatalities and serious bodily injury crashes has demonstrated a dramatic reduction in the number of people who are killed on our highways by drunk drivers.
I have been an active member of the DWI Unit since its inception in 2003 and have been the team captain of the annual MADD walk for the past 12 of 13 years. I have volunteered on the Event Committee for 12 years. In 2010, I was asked to be the Chairman of the Walk and helped to make it one of the most successful Walks in the history of MADD North Texas.
My goal as team captain has been to motivate my team members and to try and increase the number of law enforcement teams that participate in the walk each year. It becomes a fun competition between our agency and other law enforcement agencies to see who will gain the coveted title of “top law enforcement team” and who will raise the most money for this charitable event.
Every year we tell our team members to lace up their tennis shoes, break out their sporty shorts, don their new Zero Tolerance t-shirt, and come join us for the annual 5K MADD Walk!
We’d love to see you there!
Officer Stephen W. Burres, III #839
Irving Police Department DWI Unit
This is a guest post written by Brittney Hultgren M.S., a Graduate Assistant at Pennsylvania State University and coauthor of a paper on factors that can influence adolescents' decisions to ride with drinking drivers.
Each year hundreds of passengers are killed in car crashes with drivers who had been drinking.1 The numbers could become higher. Our work shows nearly 1 in 4 college students ride with drinking drivers.2 Despite the prevalence of this high risk behavior, there has been very little research devoted to understanding why it occurs and how to change it from happening.
What can be done now?
Our research with college students suggests potential strategies to help reduce riding with drivers who are under the influence.2
- Parents- Our research showed that what parents do can be very influential. Parents should be made aware that when they get into cars with drivers who have been drinking they are also influencing their children’s decisions to be passengers in cars with drivers who have been drinking.
- Peers- Our research showed that peers have the potential to really impact their friends’ decisions to ride. One of the strongest predictors of students’ willingness to ride in cars with drivers who have been drinking was whether they thought their closest friends would approve or disapprove of them being passengers when the drivers have been drinking. #protecturfriends
What can we do for the future?
Riding with a drinking or drugged driver is an issue that affects our entire society, and therefore we need all levels of society to make strides to reduce it.
- Research- Our work suggests research is needed to answer the questions of Why do people decide to ride with someone who has been drinking or using drugs? and What can we do about it? Right now, there is very little research to fully answer these questions and inform the development of effective interventions.
- Schools and Social Media- While schools have been the traditional setting to provide students information about riding with drinking drivers, it is evident that students are consistently connected on social media. Thus, this may be a good avenue to target and reach them. MADD has done a great job at branching out in the social media world. Partnering schools with a social media approach could be an especially strong way to reach students both for research and prevention.
- Businesses- Businesses have the ability to promote behaviors, such as safe driving and alternatives to being a passenger in cars when drivers have been drinking. Fortunately, we have leaders such as State Farm who strongly encourage these behaviors and support programs like MADD and the scientists who work with MADD. We encourage more business leaders to partner with MADD and researchers to answer important questions and inform the development of effective interventions.
While there is much more work to be done to reduce riding with drinking and drugged drivers, there are many different parts of the solution. Step up and make a difference!
1 NHTSA. (2013). Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
2 Hultgren, B. A., Scaglione, N. M., Cleveland, M. J., & Turrisi, R. (2015). Examination of a dual process model predicting riding with drinking drivers. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 39(6): 1075-1082.
3 NHTSA. (2015). Fact sheet: National roadside survey of alcohol and drug use by drivers. Washington, DC.
4 Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2012). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2011. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the MADD Canada National Conference. As soon as I arrived, I immediately felt right at home thanks to the warm welcome from their National President Kiki Souranis, CEO Andy Murie and their entire staff.
Kiki attended the MADD (U.S.) National Conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, so I was excited to travel north to be a part of the MADD Canada event.
Nearly 200 people from around Canada attended the conference in Toronto which focused on ending drunk driving, honoring those killed or injured, changing legislation, supporting victims, raising awareness and educating the public.
I also learned about the powerful, high-energy message that is being delivered to 2015-2016 School Assembly Programs. Part of that message comes from the film “24 Hours,” a collaborative effort between MADD Canada and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
The trailer I saw gave me a glimpse of the powerful dramatization about the tragic consequences of impaired driving as depicted by a group of youth who attend a bush party. The video ends with testimonials from real-life victims who share their heartbreaking stories with the audience. Children in more than 1,500 Ontario schools will see the film.
It was an inspiring conference and as I flew back home I was confident that MADD Canada is working equally as hard as MADD US in the fight to end drunk driving until there are NO MORE VICTIMS.
Saturday, September 26th might have been a rainy day in Atlanta, but it by no means dampened the spirits of those in attendance at the 11th Annual Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash event at The PGA Tour Superstore in Kennesaw.
Thanks to the generous support of the Atlanta Falcons, Mercedes-Benz and many others, more than 1,100 registered participants and volunteers braved the pouring rain to remember those who have been killed or injured by drunk driving; to inspire people to turn their pain into purpose; and to commit to a future of no more drunk driving victims.
Atlanta Falcons Owner Arthur Blank (whose fiancée, Angie Macuga, co-chaired the event) spoke to attendees before the Walk and Dash kicked off, then led a team of 150 participants in the event.
“Having the support of Mr. Blank and the Falcons as well as so many more in the Atlanta community plays a crucial role in delivering MADD’s mission locally and across the country,” said MADD CEO Debbie Weir, who attended Saturday’s Walk. “We want victims and survivors to know they will always have a place at MADD, and we want entire communities to know that together, we can make sure that drunk driving ends here.”
State Representative Geoff Duncan (District 26) spoke at the Walk as well. Representative Duncan is a strong supporter of MADD and is working tirelessly to strengthen Georgia’s underage drinking and drunk driving laws in order to better protect the public and keep Georgia roadways safe.
“I know firsthand what a crucial lifeline MADD provides to victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving,” said Atlanta Walk Like MADD Co-Chair Amy Kissam Sands, whose 22-year-old stepson, Tyler, was killed by an underage drunk and drugged driver. “Having Representative Duncan and other valued and trusted community partners join us to make sure these resources are available to those who need them will make a difference to so many people.”
KSU Police Chief Roger Lee Stearns, and Kennesaw Mayor Mark Matthews also attended the Walk.
More than 80 Walk Like MADD events take place across the country every year, and each one plays a vital role in raising much needed funds and support that stays in local communities to prevent drunk driving and serve victims.
The Atlanta Walk, in particular, had strong turnout and support from highly engaged youth in the community. Elementary, middle and high school students as well as college students showed up in force to get the message out that youth engagement is crucial in order to prevent underage drinking and related consequences; and that they can help play a pivotal role in eliminating drunk driving as well.
Thanks to the extraordinary work of Atlanta Walk Like MADD co-chairs Angie Macuga and Amy Kissam Sands, along with many MADD Georgia staff and volunteers, Saturday’s event surpassed its $100,000 fundraising goal and raised more than $155,000.
A big thank you to everyone who participated in the Atlanta Walk Like MADD. Your commitment means that more lives will be saved, and more victims will be served in Georgia.