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
It’s been a busy start to our 35th Anniversary year. State Legislatures are in session around the country and many are considering stronger laws concerning drunk and drugged driving. During the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with lawmakers in Colorado, Kentucky and Pennsylvania – with more states to come. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® with those who can help make it happen.
It is also given me the chance to meet with people like you who support MADD with their time, their effort and their money. Each one left a lasting impression that I won’t soon forget.
I’ll remember the victims I met. In Kentucky, I’ll remember MADD National Teen Influencer group Alex Otto and her story of how she suffered a brain injury and lost her leg in a boating crash caused by a drunk boater. In Pennsylvania, I’ll remember the parents of Fire Chief Rodney Paul Miller who was killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver.
I’ll also remember the volunteers and supporters. In Colorado, I had the opportunity to meet and thank Darin Schanker for the thousands of hours and dollars his law firm has donated to MADD. In Kentucky, I was amazed at the incredible devotion of MADD’s victim services staff.
I’ll remember each and every face of the victims, the volunteers, the legislators and the donors. Like you, they are on the front line in the fight against drunk driving – supporting our law enforcement officers as they battle drunk and drugged driving 24/7, asking their representatives to pass stronger laws and telling their stories to others so that they will understand the devastation that is caused by these violent crimes.
It’s an honor for me to have the opportunity to see all of you at work and I can’t thank you enough. Together, we WILL eliminate drunk driving.
Thirty-five years after a grieving mother started one of the most influential and effective grassroots movements in history, we’re pleased to announce our new National President, Colleen Sheehey-Church, the first victim of drugged driving to serve as MADD’s National President.
Colleen’s 18-year-old son, Dustin, drowned after the car he was riding in, driven by a teen with alcohol and drugs in her system, crashed into a river, trapping Dustin in the vehicle. She joined MADD a year later in 2005. Read Dustin’s story here.
“No one ever dreams about becoming MADD’s National President, because it means that you have suffered the most unimaginable pain of a death or injury due to the preventable crime of drunk or drugged driving,” says Sheehey-Church. “I was drowning in grief after I lost my son, until I called MADD. I only wished I had called sooner. I’m honored and humbled to represent the victims we couldn’t save, stand alongside those we have and advocate to keep innocent lives safe on our nation’s roadways.”
Ten years ago I became the mother of a child who was killed by a drunk driver. Ten years later, I am still that mother of a child killed by a drunk driver. I have learned to turn my grief into action, which is why I am so honored and humbled to take action as the National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
My son Dustin was only 18 years old when he was killed. Loving, caring and full of life, Dustin always made a room light up when he entered. I miss that. I miss his smile, his red hair, his freckles and his creative banter that filled us all with energy and reflection. Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. Losing Dustin is certainly the worst thing that ever happened to me.
My hope in this coming year is that in some way I can a help prevent someone else from experiencing this heartbreak. The tragedy of drunk and drugged driving is the theft of thousands of lives each year; the hundreds of thousands of people left with life changing injuries; and the financial damage that costs us nearly $200 billion every year. Sadly, all of this destruction is preventable.
So, this year, as I travel the country and speak with you and thousands of others, I’ll ask us all to join together in the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. We can do that by supporting our law enforcement officers who are on the front lines of the battle every day. We can make sure people are sober to start by supporting legislation that requires ignition interlocks for all offenders. And we can help secure the future by supporting the development of technology that will automatically determine whether or not a driver is sober.
MADD has quickly become my “family” and has given me hope and courage. While I couldn’t save Dustin’s live, MADD has saved my life and our family’s.
Like you, I can’t wait until the day we eliminate drunk driving once and for all.
|Church Family: Casey, Dustin, Colleen and Skip|
On July 10, 2004, 18-year-old Dustin Church was hanging out with friends when they decided to go on a late-night pizza run. But on the way home, in the short two-mile stretch between the restaurant and the driver’s house, the speeding car ran off the road, hit an embankment and landed upside-down in a Connecticut river.
The driver was an impaired teenager, who had been illegally drinking underage and using drugs. Dustin was in the backseat of the two-door car as it sank into the river.
The two in the front seat survived. But not Dustin. He died trying to get out of the backseat. He died trying to breathe as the car sank deeper. In short, he died trying to live. But he didn’t live, he drowned.
Dustin, known for his fiery red hair and his laughter, had recently graduated high school and was trying to decide what he wanted to do for college. He was considering an acting career. Dustin was well liked by his peers and was always able to find the best in everyone.
Dustin’s step-mom, Colleen Sheehey-Church said that “for about a year, my husband, our other son and I were heartbroken and lost. Then I called MADD. They saved me.”
As time went on, Colleen and her husband Skip decided they didn’t want to just be victims. They wanted to be a part of the solution and started volunteering with MADD.
Colleen Sheehey-Church is now the newest MADD National President. She will travel the country sharing Dustin’s story and working to put an end to drunk driving.
|Colleen, Dustin and Skip|