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®.
More than 10,000 people were killed by drunk driving last year. We must end this - and we can!
But MADD, as one of the largest crime victim services organizations in the nation and the ONLY grassroots organization focused on stopping this 100% preventable crime, needs YOU!
The majority of individual donations come in December. That means our ability to provide services and programs throughout the other 11 other months is dependent on your generosity during the next 30 days.
I personally want to let you know that I believe MADD to be a responsible steward of your donations.
How do we use your gifts?
MADD reaches into the community to teach teenagers about the dangers of underage drinking and drunk driving with its Power of You(th)® Program. At the same time, it works with their mothers and fathers through the Power of Parents® Program. Together, those efforts are helping to eliminate the myths, focus on the truth and change the culture. In addition, MADD is piloting a SMART program that will give those under 21 years of age who have been arrested for underage drinking or traffic violations the tools to make better decisions in the future.
Dating back to its inception, MADD has worked to change laws. Every state using .08 as the measurement for drunk driving is an example of the early success. Now, MADD is working to improve drunk driving laws in each state, targeting the use of Ignition Interlock Devices for all offenders, DUI Child Endangerment laws and others. Led by our Governmental Affairs Team, state staff and volunteers work with legislators to pass sensible legislation that helps save lives.
Supporting the Development of Life Saving Technology
The Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving is dependent on the development of technology. That’s why MADD is so supportive of the DADSS Program, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. Focusing on the development of in-vehicle technology to prevent alcohol-impaired driving, DADSS may lead to a day when there are No More Victims®.
Supporting Law Enforcement
MADD actively supports the work of law enforcement around the country - from being with them during Sobriety Checkpoints to honoring them for their vigilance in making our roads safer. Because they have their boots on the ground enforcing our laws 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, lives are being saved.
And, for victims, there is always a place at MADD. That is as true today as it was at the founding 36 years ago. That support never wanes, even while doing all of the above.
So, please help us continue our efforts with a donation this month.
Remember, whatever you’re able to give will be matched by Nationwide®, giving MADD double the impact this coming year!