Alisa’s Law: In My Daughter’s Honor
August 5, 2014
I was taken by surprise when recently asked with respect if it would be okay to name a bill sponsored by Congresswoman Nita Lowey in my daughter's honor. They would call it "Alisa's Law." Tears filled my eyes as I consented.
Those of us whose loved ones have been killed know that feeling. It is deep gratitude, blended together with deep sadness, topped with a dollop of smiles. A primary feeling every parent whose child has died is the intense need to have them remembered. They are our life, our hearts, and our souls.
It has been a long and painful journey since Alisa died 22 years ago. It has been a heartwarming and uplifting journey as well. Working together with our MADD family and close community friends around the country over these years is truly what has inspired me and held me up. My intense desire to support others struggling with heartache resulting from drunk driving, plus my passionate determination to end this violent crime propels me forward.
I fully intend to witness the complete end of drunk driving before I die. It will happen, thanks to DADSS, the advanced technology we will enjoy in the near future. In the meantime, I stand equally determined with my MADD family in pursuing efforts that research shows are most effective in reducing this carnage.
One primary method is to require alcohol ignition interlocks for ALL convicted drunk drivers. MADD is laser-beam-focused on working to get such laws passed in every state. Indeed, when we began our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® in 2006 there was only one state with such a law. Today, pending the signing of a bill in Delaware, 24 states will have such laws.
Why do we do this? Because the deaths resulting from drunk driving have been reduced significantly - up to 43% in Arizona and 42% in Oregon! Those are amazing results. Effective!
This life-saving legislation is supported by Congress, NHTSA, NTSB, highway safety organizations, and even portions of the alcohol industry. Even part of the current highway transportation law, MAP-21, offers incentive grants to states that require interlocks for all convicted offenders. Still, half of our states refrain from passing such laws. My state, Maryland, is one of those states.
Thankfully, New York Representative Nita Lowey, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced an interlock sanction bill. The bill would create a sanction and states which do not have an all offender interlock law would lose federal highway dollars. This is modeled after the national. 08 laws (which Ms. Lowey was a critical supporter) and the 21 minimum drinking age.
Sadly, it has been my experience over these past many years that federal sanctions are the only way some states will enact the most effective drunk driving legislation. Indeed, I remember very well our work urging states to ratify .08 BAC legal limit as the standard in every state. It was only after sanctions were imposed in the federal transportation law that remaining hold-out states lowered their legal limit to .08 BAC. Lowering the legal limit has saved thousands of lives since its inception. Today, it is again time for lawmakers in every state to do the right thing and enact the most effective measures in saving the most lives and preventing the most injuries from drunk driving.
I was so very touched when they asked me to name this law “Alisa's Law” because it occurred on her birthday! I am also moved because her dad, Joe, and I have taken her with us on this journey to affect change. Her closest friend once said that Alisa was so private and would no doubt be mortified that her picture was “everywhere” now. But I don’t think so. She was such a kind and compassionate person that I know this change would be as important to her as it is us.
As much as I am honored to have this legislation in Alisa’s name, I wish more than anything that there would have to be no Alisa’s Law, nor Leandra’s Law in New York, nor Emma’s Law in South Carolina, nor Melanie’s Law in Massachusetts – nor any law needed to stop this needless crime. I will do such a happy dance when we see the day that these laws are simply part of the history books. I know you will celebrate with me!
Click here to email your lawmaker in support of Alisa’s Law.
Coping with Career-Changing Injuries
July 24, 2014
Originally featured in the 2014 summer edition of MADDvocate®.
Every 90 seconds, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash. And as we know, first there’s the crash, then the lifelong impact. No one should try to minimize the challenge of adjusting to a new future or letting go of an old life. The reality is that many injured victims must build new lives, and often that includes a new career.
Courageous injured victims Brittany Kirby and Chris Mann share how they successfully rebuilt their lives and their careers—one painful step at a time.
Bad Things Happen to Good People
On February 13, 2009, 19-year-old Brittany, her friend Rachel, and Rachel’s two young children were driving out of town for a Valentine’s Day weekend getaway. Without warning, a drunk driver with a BAC of .15 crossed the center lane of the Tennessee road they were traveling on, and hit their car head-on.
“I don’t remember the crash,” Brittany says. “My injuries included two shattered bones in my left arm, a shattered knee joint and a traumatic brain injury. I was on life support because of my brain injury and I had to undergo eight surgeries.”
Brittany was told that Rachel was in a medically induced coma to help her body heal. Rachel died two days later. Her two children survived.
Chris Mann was living his dream of being a law enforcement officer. He spent four successful years with the Lawrence, Kansas, Police Department. While on patrol and training a rookie officer in the early morning hours of January 11, 2002, his life was forever changed.
“We pulled an SUV with no taillights over,” Chris recalls. “It was a routine traffic stop, until I caught the flash of headlights coming toward me. I didn’t have time to move before I was hit.” Chris says he was walking in front of his patrol car when a drunk driver struck the car from behind, pushing the car into him, sending him airborne. “I landed unconscious on the side of the road, 30 feet from where I had been standing.” Miraculously nothing was broken, but the soft tissue damage to his leg was extensive.
After months of physical therapy he tried to go back to work, but his leg could not hold up. When he was removed from active duty, Chris had to contemplate what to do with the rest of his life.
Adjusting to life after an injury and learning to live with new limitations can be extremely frustrating. Injured victims must heal emotionally as well as physically.
Read the rest of this article in the MADDvocate.
Find More Resources
MADD offers brochures for crash victims, in English and Spanish, covering grief and healing, talking to children and teens about death, coping with serious injury, the criminal and civil court system, and more. Click here.
Stay Safe on the Road This Summer
July 16, 2014
During the summer months, families often take to the highways for vacations and extended road trips. While these excursions can start off as a happy occasion, they can too often result in tragedy.
A new infographic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Ad Council shows how even if the drunk driving crash doesn’t kill or seriously injure you, the consequences will still ruin your life.
Renew Your Commitment to Drunk Driving Prevention
July 10, 2014
A recent study, released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the financial impact of motor vehicle crashes, shows that if drunk driving continues at its present level, an average of two out of three people in the United States will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. This is a significant increase over previous data, which estimated that one in three people will be involved.
In light of these concerning new findings, and in an ongoing effort to prevent the devastating consequences of drunk driving, MADD is calling on Americans to renew their commitment to drunk driving prevention this summer.
Take the pledge now.
Other significant drunk driving findings from the study include:
- The economic impact of drunk driving is second only to speeding.
- The annual cost of drunk driving in the U.S. is $199 billion, which is up from previous estimates of $132 billion.
- The number of injuries each year attributed to drunk driving is 290,000, which is down from previous estimates of 345,000 injuries.
- The number of crashes each year that involve a drunk driver is 2.65 million, which is up from 2.09 million in 2000.
This should serve as a wake-up call. There is no denying the devastating impact of drunk driving on our families, communities, and the country as a whole. Luckily, the solution is simple: just don’t drink and drive. It’s not worth it.
For more information about MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, visit www.madd.org/campaign.
Click here to add your name to the list of people renewing their commitment to drunk driving prevention.
July 8, 2014
Today, Representative Nita Lowey introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would push states to require the use of ignition interlock devices for a minimum of six months for all convicted drunk driving offenders. States that fail to comply would face a reduction in federal transportation funding.
The bill is called “Alisa’s Law,” in honor of the daughter of MADD National President Jan Withers. Yesterday would have been Alisa’s 38th birthday had her life not been tragically cut short by a drunk driver when she was just 15.
If passed, this legislation would represent a significant milestone for MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. When the Campaign was launched in 2006, New Mexico was the only state to require all convicted drunk drivers to use an ignition interlock. Today, 24 states have passed similar legislation, and California instituted a pilot program that covers over 13 million people. The most recent count shows that over 300,000 interlocks are installed in the United States.
Every major traffic safety organization including the National Transportation Safety Board and AAA has endorsed the concept. As part of the MAP-21 surface transportation bill, Congress approved an ignition interlock incentive grant program to give financial incentives to states which pass all offender interlock legislation. Alisa’s Law is the next major step towards a nation without drunk driving, a crime that still causes almost one-out-of three highway deaths.
MADD thanks Congresswoman Lowey for her leadership to help eliminate drunk driving.