The Prevention of Underage Drinking Will Help Us Reach Our Ultimate Goal

21 Days in Support of 21: Day 6

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been at the forefront of drunk driving prevention for 35 years. Research shows that teens are over-represented in crashes and that the long-term effects of underage consumption play a part in the propensity of a person to make the choice to get behind the wheel after drinking. That’s why MADD works to help prevent underage drinking, because research shows that the prevention of underage drinking will help us reach our ultimate goal: to end drunk driving and therefore, save countless lives.

There’s no doubt that traffic crashes are a major source of tragedy for youth. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 24 percent of the young drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. This amounts to 926 drivers aged 15-20 who were involved in fatal crashes.

But drunk driving is not the only concern when it comes to underage drinking—taking away the keys does not take away the risk. Underage drinking is also associated with violent crime, property crime, unintentional injury, risky sex, and long-term alcohol problems. Using 2010 data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that 32 percent of all deaths related to underage (age 15-20) alcohol use were traffic fatalities and 68 percent were other fatal incidents, including homicides (30 percent), suicides (14 percent), alcohol poisonings (9 percent) and other causes of death (15 percent).

Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and are two and a half times more likely to become abusers of alcohol than those who begin drinking at age 21. In 2009, 64,831 youth 12-20 years old were admitted for alcohol treatment in the United States, accounting for 8% of all treatment admissions for alcohol abuse in the country.  And teen drinking leads to greater risk of drunk driving in their future as well.

The good news is that according to a GfK Roper Youth Report, 74% of adolescents aged 8-17 years reported parents as the most influential person in their decision not to drink at all or not to drink on occasion. Parents DO have the power to communicate with and therefore influence their kids’ decisions about alcohol, which can help protect them both now and in the future. Get MADD’s parent handbook(s) to start the conversation about alcohol today with your kids and help keep them safe both now and in the future.

Two Sisters... One Mission

This September, sisters Allie, 14, and Taylor Sands, 13, will participate for the third time in the Atlanta Walk Like MADD. Last year, they led their team to become the highest non-corporate fundraising team, as well as the team with most team members at the Atlanta Walk Like MADD.  In the past two years, the Sands have help raise more than $18,000 for their team in honor of their brother, Tyler Sands.

We caught up with these two inspiring teens to ask them to share their motivation, and secret to success:

Why do you participate in Walk Like MADD?

We lost our brother Tyler Sands on October 16, 2012, it was his 22nd birthday. We participated in our first Walk Like MADD event in 2013, one month before the 1 year anniversary of his death. Although it is very difficult to attend Walk Like MADD, we found the people that went to the walk were very comforting because they had experience the same things we did. This event allowed us a place to tell our story and people would understand. We also want to make sure we can honor our brother and hopefully stop anyone else from becoming a victim.

How did you get involved with Walk Like MADD?

We were looking at the MADD website and saw that they had a Walk. We decided we wanted to start Team Tyler and have all of our family and friends come out to support us and participate in an important cause.

How did you get people to join your team?

Well, it wasn’t easy, but we really used our resources well. One thing we did was send email out telling Tyler’s story and asking to join or donate. Allie helped develop a program with our AAU basketball team called Athletes Against Underage Drinking and she went around and spoke at many of the practices. There were total over 150 girls that she spoke to that summer. Some of the simpler ways we recruited was we created flyers, have neighborhood bakes sales, brought “cookies for cops” and of course, posted the event and updates on social media.

What ways did you motivate your team members to fundraise?

We think the most important thing is to be connected with your team. You have to make sure to be sending constant email, giving updates or deadlines. For our team we stayed close and did fundraising with them to make them feel part of the experience so we can make a difference together.

What is your goal for this year’s event?

This year we would like to raise 10,000 dollars and we would like for every one of our team members to raise 100 dollars. We would like to recruit more team members and have more people get involved. This year one of our major goals is to warn as many people as we can about the dangers of drunk driving or getting in a car with someone who is drunk.

What is your favorite thing about Walk Like MADD?

Our favorite thing about Walk Like MADD is the people you meet. What we mean by this is, people who have had the same experiences and people who are going through the same thing that you are going though. Why, because the best person to comfort someone when they are going through tragedy is someone who has also gone through tragedy.

What advice would you have for other youth participants and fundraisers?

Our advice for other youth participants is to remember who you’re doing this for. Don’t get caught up in if you are the highest team or the best youth participant. Remember who you are doing this for to honor his or her memory.

Click here to donate to Taylor and Allie’s Walk Like MADD team: Team Tyler Sands.

Grace Knutsen, Allie Sands, Ann Rafeedie, Taylor Sands
at the 2014 Atlanta Walk Like MADD

2015 Legislative Update

If you want tougher drunk driving laws, you need supporters in state government. And those supporters emerged early in the legislative sessions of states like Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania, where lawmakers proposed expanding ignition interlock laws to include more drunk drivers.  These are only a few of the many states that are considering legislation improving their drunk driving law. MADD’s Government Affairs team began working with all of these states and others in early January, building coalitions, organizing advocacy days for staff and volunteers, walking the halls of state capitols and blanketing the media with solid evidence to support MADD’s top legislative priority: ignition interlocks for all convicted offenders.

Much of the legislation is still working its way through each state’s legislature, but MADD is already celebrating the Kentucky team’s success in achieving overwhelming support from the General Assembly. Efforts there included a media event Feb. 3 with MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church, an amazing team of MADD Kentucky staff and volunteers, and bill sponsors Rep. Dennis Keene and Sen. Morgan McGarvey. State Government Affairs Director Frank Harris oversaw the events on Feb. 3, and returned to Kentucky on Feb. 11 to testify for the bill. The hard work paid off: The General Assembly sent an interlock bill to Gov. Steve Beshear on March 24. The legislation requires ignition interlocks for all repeat, refusals and first-time convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or greater.

The New Jersey team garnered similar overwhelming support from its Legislature on Feb. 5, when a tough, all-offender interlock bill was passed and sent to Gov. Chris Christie to sign. Frank was there with another amazing team from New Jersey as the bill received final passage. The team continues to work on next steps, after the governor sent the legislation back to the Legislature with suggested revisions. The suggested revisions would still make New Jersey the 25th state to enact an all-offender interlock law, should lawmakers decide to act on the governor’s recommendations. 

The Government Affairs team has also been working alongside a determined Maryland team that faces a stubborn opponent of tougher interlock legislation. The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun have written favorable editorials, and MADD Maryland is at the capitol nearly every day working all angles to win the votes before the session ends.

Legislation in other states continues to work its way through the process. Here’s a snapshot:

  • Pennsylvania’s team of staff and volunteers visited lawmakers’ offices in Harrisburg on Feb. 10, followed by a press event led by bill sponsor Sen. John Rafferty, Rep. Keith Greiner and Colleen. The bill is working its way through committee.
  • In California, where a four-county pilot program requiring interlocks for all offenders is set to end in December, lawmakers agreed on March 24 to extend the pilot in the four counties for 18 months.
  • Texas Rep. Jason Villalba introduced an all-offender interlock bill in March. A lobby day and press event are scheduled in April at the Capitol.
  • The Arkansas General Assembly, with help from a dedicated team there, is close to passing SB 877, which closes a loophole that allowed some offenders to avoid an order to install an interlock.
  • On March 26, North Carolina lawmakers introduced an all-offender interlock bill SB 619.
  • MADD is also fighting back attempts to weaken drunk driving laws. In Florida, MADD advocated against legislation that would allow twice-a-day testing or alcohol ankle bracelets in lieu of ignition interlocks.  In Arkansas, MADD fought legislation (HB 1282) that, if passed, would weaken the drunk driving law by allowing for plea agreements. In Oregon, MADD is fighting HB 2660, which allows for some convicted drunk drivers ordered on diversion to not install an ignition interlock.

Other legislation improving current ignition interlock laws or other aspects of states’ impaired driving laws are pending or about to be introduced elsewhere. Looking ahead, we anticipate a busy 2015, with MADD teams from many states wrapping up several months of tenacious work with their lawmakers. On top of that, we’re already planning for 2016!

We can only enact change with the tireless work of volunteers like you in each state—thank you for all of your support!

There is still time to get involved and be a part of this legislative session by finding what legislative activities MADD is spearheading in your state, and contacting your lawmakers to ask for their support.  Visit to get started. And be sure to sign up for legislative action alerts, contact your local MADD office, and like us on Facebook and follow on twitter for the latest news.

MADD National President Colleen Sheehey Church with MADD staff and volunteers at the Kentucky media event

Today Show Highlights Repeat Offenders in New Segment

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This morning on the Today Show, NBC News Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen highlighted drunk drivers with multiple DUI convictions, and the state laws that make it easier for those offenders to continually threaten public safety. MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church was interviewed for the segment, speaking to the deadly and lasting impact created by drunk driving; what can and should be done to stop it; and MADD’s top legislative priority – ignition interlocks.

“Drunk driving kills over 10,000 people every year, and MADD needs everyone’s help to ensure a world of No More Victims™,” said Sheehey-Church. “I urge you join our call to stop these senseless tragedies.”

24 states currently have all offender ignition interlock laws in place. New Jersey’s legislature recently passed an all offender ignition interlock bill, and Governor Christie has until March 22nd to sign it into law. California, Maryland, Minnesota and Texas have all offender ignition interlock bills in consideration in their current state legislative sessions. California’s bill is pending a senate public safety committee hearing vote on March 24th.  Please click here to email your lawmakers in support of these, and other lifesaving measures. 

The Today Show also traveled to Denver for the story, highlighting Colorado as one of five remaining states in the U.S. without a felony DUI law for repeat offenders. Colorado Resident Ellie Phipps, a victim of a repeat drunk driver, was featured in the story. Ellie works with MADD Colorado to testify before the state legislature and participate in media interviews, sharing her story of being severely injured by a repeat offender in order to bring attention to Colorado’s desperate need for a felony DUI law.

Ellie’s fellow Colorado residents can help out by contacting their local lawmakers and urging them to support HB 1043 by voting in favor of felony DUI legislation for repeat offenders in the current legislative session.

MADD commends the Today Show for casting a spotlight on the violent crime of drunk driving.

Jan Withers Receives NHTSA Public Service Award at Lifesavers Conference

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) presented 12 individuals and organizations with NHTSA Public Service Awards at this year’s 33rd Annual Lifesavers Conference. The awards recognizes the tireless efforts and outstanding contributions an individual makes to improve highway safety throughout the country.

This year, former MADD National President Jan Withers was recognized for her tireless efforts to encourage tougher legislation across the United States, her service as a victim advocate and her tenure as MADD National President.

Congratulations Jan, and thank you for all you do to save lives and serve victims!

Administrator Mark Rosekind and Jan Withers

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