In a recent trip to Little Rock, Arkansas, I had a chance to visit students from five of the six schools that make up the Little Rock School District. The enthusiasm and energy of young people is contagious and is ALWAYS an inspiration to me. These students are our future. It was a joy to see MADD Arkansas in action, educating the high-school students on MADD’s Power of You(th) program, helping them learn about the dangers of underage drinking, and letting them know that it’s never okay to get into a car with an impaired driver.
I always love seeing the light bulbs go off when the kids understand the message, and these kids got it. 75 students were specially selected to attend these Power of You(th) training sessions. We hope that these students will take our message, and bring it back to their schools to activate change among other students. Sharing this message with a friend is an effective and powerful way that youth can make a difference.
I also had a chance to meet with volunteers, victims, survivors and staff. It’s motivating for me to hear their stories and know what MADD means in their lives. I want to give a special thank you to the Little Rock School District, as well as Marrecca Lawson, Pamela Sell and the rest of MADD Arkansas for making a difference in their community.
We empowered young people that day in Little Rock – and I know that they will spread the message of NO MORE VICTIMS.
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.
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.
MADD’s Power of Parents® and Power of You(th)® programs are just what they say in their titles… filled with “power.” Parents and peers are the most important influencers children have. I know that all too well, because our son Dustin made a fateful decision to get into a car that was driven by someone underage and under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
The night he died, he was sober and was wearing his seat belt. However, as a teenager, he was either too young and inexperienced to make a better decision or didn’t realize the extent of the driver’s impairment.
As a parent, I had conversations with Dustin about the very situation that killed him. We had talked about never drinking under the age of 21, about never drinking and driving, and never getting into a car driven by someone who had been. Most of Dustin’s friends were non-drinkers… but not the person driving the car on this night.
The power of the parent was overcome by the power of the youth; a person who regretfully showed no remorse for her actions. That’s why the right message coming from both parents and youth is so important.
So, as someone who has lost a child, I encourage parents to continue to talk to their children early and often about the dangers of drinking and about riding with someone who has.
I also want to encourage teenagers to give their friends the same message they’re hearing from their parents. I know now Dustin’s friends wish they had given that message to him so he could be with us today.
Real friends should be talking with each other about NOT drinking alcohol before the age of 21, about NOT drinking and driving and about NOT
getting into a car with an impaired driver. Protect your friends – empower each other to take a stand.
Today’s social norms have to be changed – drinking and driving is a violent crime. Let’s encourage our kids to talk to their friends about the risks of riding with someone who is drinking. Your friendship won’t be harmed – in fact…I believe it will be strengthened.
I love the opportunity to travel throughout the country and meet with the great people who support Mothers Against Drunk Driving. However, sometimes the travel isn’t easy. On my recent trip to Virginia, I had a flight cancelled, forcing me to take Uber from Newark Airport to LaGuardia, then have my flight delayed for hours, arriving in Virginia Beach minutes before the event. But it was worth it.
Nearly 200 people gathered at the Founder’s Inn in Virginia Beach for a MADD Law Enforcement Recognition event. It’s always an honor for me to talk to these heroes and present them with awards for their service. These are the men and women who have boots on the ground 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to help keep drunk drivers off the road.
Success and awards aren’t only measured in the arrests that are made, but also in the lives that are saved and the injuries that are prevented. And all this is often is accomplished at the risk of the lives of these officers. I talked about that to the honorees, their families and their friends… and thanked all of them for what they do.
Thank you Virginia for your work advancing MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Someday, there truly will be NO MORE VICTIMS. By the way, I only had one flight delayed on the way back, but have wonderful memories to keep forever.