When someone you love is killed by a drunk driver, all you have left are memories.
Your future can be reduced to despair or it can be propelled into advocacy that helps save the lives of others.
I watched the latter played out in the lives of the Rooney family in Ohio. A drunk driver killed 36-year-old Annie Rooney, an advocate and attorney, July 4th, 2013. Annie, an avid mountain biker who was looking for a sponsor to continue excelling at the sport, was driving home after picking up a bike at a friend’s house. The offender was going 100 miles per hour, resulting in several people calling into the police to report her erratic driving. An off-duty officer also pursued her because he witnessed her driving at dusk with no lights on through a school zone. READ MORE ABOUT ANNIE.
The driver was more than twice the legal limit and had been previously arrested for drunk driving three times.
In the midst of their mourning, Annie’s family began a mission… to have the state of Ohio improve the ignition interlock for all drunk drivers. Throughout the process of developing the law, the Rooney’s never missed a hearing. Annie, who had worked diligently as a prosecuting attorney on domestic violence and DUI cases, deserved a law in her name… Annie’s law.
For a while, it looked like the clock would expire for Annie's Law. Her family, including MADD National Boardmember Walt Rooney, went on Facebook Live with a plea. WATCH IT NOW. We rallied support and conducted a full-court press.
Finally, on December 6th, the bill was passed. It was unanimous. I had the privilege of being there at the State Capitol in Columbus, Ohio as the vote came in and watch the tears flow down the faces of the family.
Annie would live on in this law, “Annie’s Law”. And over the years, while the pain and suffering will continue for the family, the state of Ohio will reap the benefits of their dedication.
Lives will be saved thanks to them. And someday, all of us will be able to live in a world with NO MORE VICTIMS®.
As I look back at 2016, I realize I learned one very important lesson as the National President of MADD… getting ahead of the story makes all the difference in the world.
That was evident at the beginning of the year as the Ethan Couch drama swirled. Couch is the “Affluenza Teen” who killed four people, injured many and paralyzed another for life in a drunk driving crash in Texas. At 16-years-old, three times the legal limit of alcohol and with marijuana in his system, he destroyed lives and families forever. He received no jail time for his crime.
As the nation watched Couch’s blatant disregard for the law by fleeing to Mexico, they also watched you and MADD seize the opportunity to right the wrong. While I was in the media spotlight each day to explain our position, you were signing a petition created by MADD to change the outcome. The petition generated more than 50,000 signatures - 30,000 within 24 hours!
In less than 10 hours after sharing my open letter advocating for "Affluenza" teen Ethan Couch to serve 720 days in jail, the judge reaffirmed the adult probation terms and Couch received the sentence. While a woefully short sentence, it was the maximum that Texas law would allow at that point. However, Couch’s probation will expose him to the possibility of 40 years imprisonment in the future.
I saw a similar impact when MADD got involved in the Dylan Meyer drunk driving fatality case in Missouri. Another petition and my highly publicized letter to the judge helped put Meyer in prison on a 10-year sentence. I’ve also seen how getting ahead of the story has helped establish important legislation such as Noah’s law in Maryland and Annie’s Law in Ohio.
MADD’s voice is being heard. Your voice is being heard. And bringing our voices together, early and often, can create change.
So, don’t stop advocating for better laws.
Don’t stop remembering the victims, and don’t stop telling offenders that their excuses don’t work any longer.
Together, we can create a world where there are NO MORE VICTIMS®.
A moment in time can change everything – just ask Lisa Black.
On October 3, 2014, Lisa was driving to pick up her children from school, idly wondering about also picking up Chinese takeout.
In the next instant, her life was turned upside down. A drunk driver hit her head on.
The next thing she remembers is waking up pinned in her destroyed vehicle feeling as if her body was on fire.
She does not remember much about the crash itself. But she does remember thinking about how she would not be able to be there for her two children and her family—about how her life was about to be over or at the very least change drastically. Wondering if she would make it, Lisa fought for her life as she thought about her children.
"I can’t die. I have to be there for them (her children). They’re my world," she told herself.
Lisa was a school teacher for 23 years. The officer, who worked with a team for more than an hour to extract her from her demolished vehicle, happened to be a former student, whom she taught in the 3rd grade. This was a useful coincidence, as it allowed the officer to call her husband immediately to let him know about the crash.
She was admitted to the University of Virginia (UVA) Medical Center, where they performed multiple surgeries to rescue her. Lisa arrived at the hospital with a tibial plateau fracture, which is one of the most critical loadbearing areas in the human body. Fractures of the plateau affect knee alignment, stability, and motion. Early detection and appropriate treatment of these fractures are critical for minimizing patient disability and reducing the risk of documented complications, particularly posttraumatic arthritis.
The injury required two plates and 10 screws, an external fixator placed on her right leg, and ligaments rebuilt in her left leg using cadaver parts. An external fixation device may be used to keep fractured bones stabilized and in alignment. The device can be adjusted externally to ensure the bones remain in an optimal position during the healing process. External fixation is a method of immobilizing bones to allow a fracture to heal. External fixation is accomplished by placing pins or screws into the bone on both sides of the fracture. The pins are then secured together outside the skin with clamps and rods. The clamps and rods are known as the "external frame."
She also had multiple broken ribs, four fractures in her neck, two fractures in her back, a dissected artery in her neck, a broken left femur, as well as multiple broken bones in her right hand.
Lisa was placed in a nursing home upon discharge from the hospital as she was not well enough to have rehab immediately. Once Lisa was home she had around-the-clock care from her husband and home health. Eventually Lisa was able to go to outpatient therapy five days a week for many months to learn how to walk again and was able to get back to her life slowly but surely.
Just six months following this horrible tragedy, thanks to motivation from her family, Lisa walked her first 5k at Walk Like MADD in Virginia.
But Lisa wasn't satisfied. She set a goal of regaining the ability to run again. The doctors at UVA were skeptical, but they encouraged her to pursue that dream.
Today, she can run. MADD is thankful for her decision to use her story to inspire others. Lisa annually participates in Walk Like MADD. She speaks at universities, schools, and with law enforcement programs to let officers know they truly are making a difference with their efforts against drunk driving.
“I still fight with pain on a daily basis,” Lisa said, “But I tell myself I’m not going to sit on the sidelines. I’m going to get back in the game. And that’s what I did!”
One life lost is one too many. It’s a sentiment that strongly bonds MADD and Texas-based advertising and communications agency GDC Marketing and Ideation in the desire to save lives on Texas roadways.
As a strategic partner with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), GDC has planned and implemented multiple statewide initiatives for the state agency, including educating motorists on the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving. Spurred by its organizational mission to “Inspire Change,” GDC created the on-going Plan While You Can campaign for TxDOT that urges drivers to make a plan for a sober ride home before they go out and consume alcohol. Ever committed to expanding upon its expertise on the issue of drinking and driving, GDC invited MADD to deliver a Victim Assistance Training course to its employees.
The full-day training covered topics such as how to address drunk driving survivors, the aftermath of bereavement and injury, and law enforcement’s response to substance impaired driving crimes. MADD National Senior Director of Victim Services Lauren Rowe and San Antonio Police Detective Michael Moore served as presenters and were joined by Abraham Diaz, Rosie Moncada and Americao Moncada who shared personal testimonials of their journey after losing loved ones in drunk driving crashes.
“The training had a strong impact on our employees,” said GDC Partner and COO Beth Wammack. “Through our work with TxDOT, we seek to give a voice to the families whose lives are forever changed by drunk driving crashes. The information shared during the MADD training will be beneficial in how we continue to shape and share these stories.”
If you would like to learn more about the training MADD provides, please call our national office at 1-877-ASk-MADD.