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Answering Our Critics
By Jan Withers | November 29, 2011| 86 Comments | Filed in: Drunk Driving

Last week I was interviewed on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and there were many callers – many of whom were critical of my work through MADD.  One guy said he hoped I slept at night and another said George Washington would be disgusted as I was ruining people’s lives who were convicted of driving drunk.  The accusations were extreme – the convicted people lives were ruined because their arrests cost them so much financially and then they could never get jobs again, just for having a couple of drinks, having a little fun and making an innocent mistake.  Never mind that drinking to a .08 BAC level is not just a couple of drinks.  Never mind that Americans are very aware of the destruction drunk driving can cause.  Never mind that they are breaking the law by driving after drinking excessively.  Never mind that it isn’t innocent and it's not a mistake – it is a criminal act.  Never mind that they are responsible for their own consequences by committing this crime.  And, never mind that more often it devastates the lives of people they victimize.  That is why it is illegal.  That is why it is not just a mistake.

But you know, I believe George Washington would be proud of us at MADD.  He was all about the protection of our rights as citizens.  I believe we have the right to be safe from threat of violent outcomes that impaired driving causes.  I do sleep at night because of our hard work to save lives.  I will continue to be vocal, I will continue to lobby for effective countermeasures against drunk driving, and I will forever work to save lives and prevent injuries caused by impaired driving. 

Jan Withers, MADD National President



Submitted by JT at 09:20 PM on December 7, 2014
There's a valley of deference between justice and vengeance. The legal BAC is so low and the punishment so harsh that a person can have there life ruined over what could honestly have been a mistake. Even if it's the first time and they didn't hurt anyone. It seems as if these laws punish people for the crime they could have committed, not the one they did. I'm not saying that a person who drinks and drives shouldn't be punished, but the current laws are excessive. I realize the people who founded this group did so because they lost loved ones to drunk driving. That said, you do not have the right to seek such Draconian measures. If you truly wished to protect people you wouldn't be trying to hurt every offender (regardless of individual circumstance) as much as possible. What you are doing is an act of vengeance. Justice protects people from suffering, vengeance guaranties it.
Submitted by Madd is evil at 03:55 PM on November 27, 2014
Madd is one of the most evil organizations out there always trying to push their agenda on the government... Ever think about the familys of the people getting duis and the devastation on them? No you dont cause that isnt your family now is it?
Submitted by Lifeisover at 09:46 PM on November 17, 2014
MADD I had a very close friend die as a passenger in a drunk driving accident. I have never gotten behind the wheel while intoxicated. I always discouraged others from doing so as well. However I had two beers with dinner one evening, waiting an hour to ensure I felt absolutely no effects, was completely sober and drove home safely. I'd done so dozens of times before. And I doubt everyone in your organization has never had a glass of wine before getting behind the wheel. Yet I got pulled over, arrested, and now my life is over. I did not hurt anyone. I was told by the officer that I appeared completely sober. Yet I blew a .10 (yes, two light beers registered as .10). I did not drink hard liquor, I did not drink to excess. Yet I am in the same boat as the guy who was driving my friend. You can't and won't change anything to give us first time offenders any kind of mercy, so I won't ask. Just know that a .08 can be as small as a bottle of beer. My life is ruined over two beers. I am extremely depressed. I may kill myself. Do you ever feel like you're saving lives after people with dui's commit suicide? If just one of you ever gets pulled over I hope you get all the life crushing penalties your own organization has imposed. I hope you go bankrupt. I hope you lose your job, your home, your family, and a any hope of any future. And when you can't take it any longer and you're about to end it all, I hope the second after you take your life those constitution destroying laws you've put in place get repealed.
Submitted by End Of Liberty at 02:39 AM on October 20, 2014
MADD and the NHTSA continue to shred the constitution to bits. The fourth amendment is dead thanks to these organizations. The sixth amendment states clearly that in all criminal proceedings the accused shall have the right to a trial by jury. Thanks to MADD and the NHTSA many people on trial for first offense DUI/OUI/DWI (whatever the state wants to call it) do not have the right to a trial by jury. A single judge decides whether they are guilty or innocent. Scholarly research proves that judges are much more likely to convict than juries. Shredding our constitutional framework! Good going MADD. If it saves one life it is a good thing! Better throw everyone in jail because they might kill someone! Societies that put security before freedom will achieve neither and lose both. However societies that first place an emphasis on freedom before security will achieve a high measure of both. "The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well when there aren't enough criminals one simply creates more. One decrees so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for people to live without breaking laws." - Ayn Rand We are already a prison population. I fear for the future of this country.
Submitted by Anonymous at 04:38 PM on October 18, 2014
The depression is never going to leave me after getting a DUI. No matter what I do it will always be there. I understand that it was my fault. But like others have said about the what if part. No one was hurt I wasn't driving recklessly with no regard. I feel that my life is over and all the support I am getting is great but it won't make it go away. Regardless it is a crime that strips you of everything you have worked hard to get. It is a mistake that can't be erased and even people that have DUIs have no sympathy for others that do.
Submitted by HelmholtzWatson at 03:15 PM on September 24, 2014
Drunk Driving is a phantom epidemic and reform of the laws are long overdue. I'm going to take the following statistc's from Madd's own website and see how they intentionally mislead the public to further their agenda. They say that in 2012, 10,322 were killed "by drunk driving". A closer look at where they got that figures shows that of that 10,322 80% were either the big bad drunk driver themselves or their adult passengers who made the decision to get in the car with the drunk driver. So we have a case where in actuality, the real number of people killed as a result of BEING HIT by a drunk driver is roughly 2,000. That same year, 2012, there were over a million people arrested for DUI/DWI. Am i the only one that sees the complete disconnect between the law and severity of the problem (or lack thereof). And for those that say all these arrests lead to less deaths, well that is also wrong. I will once again use the numbers from MADD's own website to show you this. They say "1 in 2,000 of the 233 Billion Trips" Americans make each year, an "impaired" driver is behind the wheel. If you do the math with the number of impaired trips and the number of people killed by drunk drivers, the chances of being killed by one of these "impaired' drivers on one of those smalls is so small that it would be statistically insignifant, something along the lines of .00001%. MADD is a dishonest organization that exploits the pain and suffering of others for their own financial and political gain. It's about time they get called out on it.
Submitted by Anonymous at 09:50 PM on September 23, 2014
In 1995 I received two DUI’s in one week. It was a lamentable time in my life but I was fortunate enough to have a supportive girlfriend, who was also the mother of my first born child, as well as having employment for a company which was willing to overlook my poor decision making so long as I entered into a rehabilitation clinic; which I did. Afterwards my life outlook improved and I was blessed with two more children; but my relationship with their mother became increasingly strained over this same time period. In 2010 I ran into a series of unfortunate experiences; my house was foreclosed on, my father died of cancer, and my girlfriend’s mother was murdered. And my sobriety ended as I fell into depression and had a one-time relapsed on Memorial Day weekend 2011. My relapse resulted in a third DUI, which in the state I live in, is an automatic felony. I was fired from the job I held for twenty years. I was put into prison two days after the birth of my fourth daughter. My license was revoked for three years. I was put on probation for three years. I had to pay community restitution in the amount of $7,000. Over the course of the next three years, the burden of guilt and shame which I experienced on a daily basis led to me falling into a deep, deep depression. I tried to take comfort in being able to spend a lot of quality time with my four young daughters; I even enrolled in college in an attempt to improve my self-perception—but the three offenses were too much for my girlfriend to overcome and as of two months ago she asked me to move out. But I remained sober. I feel all of the above judgments and punishments are reasonable. I’m proud that I had no desire to again self-medicate as a way to overcome life difficulties; but I am also at a loss as to how to mend the broken path. I’m still enrolled in college, and, for the time being, have a temporary place to stay where I have shelter, nourishment, love and support. But, having the stigma of a felony permanently attached to me up until the age of 99 has made it nigh impossible for me to obtain any type of employment. I have always been an honest, intelligent, caring, hard working person and these qualities show through whenever I am interviewed—yet every time I impress the hiring manager, and am upfront about my past errors—they offer me a position only to have it rescinded by the human resource department. I have put out well over 500 applications over the last few months, but it is the same thing. (NO FELONIES) Honestly, there are times where I consciously find myself considering between removing myself from this vindictive society by an act of suicide and actually committing a crime which in which I would deserve to be condemned for life. But I love my children far too much to allow them a father who said I can’t. I’m willing to do any type of work, live out of my truck on the streets, remain enrolled in school so I can obtain a quality education, volunteer my time to charitable organizations, even have my role as a father reduced to a nanny-like, part time caretaker, for whenever their mother is unable to find someone to take care of them when she works; but this damn felony makes me look like a horrible monster who is a direct threat to any and all people who I share this society with. I don’t blame MADD for pushing to have law enforcement measures in place which punish people who violate the communal trust, there must be accountability; yet I don’t see how creating a permeant class of people who are disenfranchised improves the community. 1 in 4 Americans have criminal records- that is 65 million people. The USA leads all countries in the number of people incarcerated as well as having 25% of the worlds incarcerated while only having 5% of the world’s population. It costs an average of $28,000 a year to keep someone in jail, half of whom are nonviolent, non-repeat offenders; and only 4% are there for robbery and 1% for homicide. It costs 39 billion dollars to fund these incarcerations. This does not take into account the effect the absence of so many people has on the families and communities which they came out of. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who are too unstable to be trusted to be allowed in the general public. But at some point wiser heads must prevail and realize that condemning ¼ of the population to a substation in life is only making the economic and social makeup of America that much weaker. I just don’t see how the governing members of MADD can quantify this type pull on society. This is the problem when people legislate morality; it creates an environment where being angry at the behavior justifies any recourse. I’m sorry that they have lost loves ones in so senseless of a manner. It breaks my heart to know innocent people lose their lives because of poor decision making. I’m thankful every day that I never hurt anyone or caused property damage; and I’m constantly reminding myself how foolish it was for me to make such unnecessary risks. But should I be punished for the rest of my life for this? If you think so then perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the Constitution; in particular the 8th amendment. It is cruel and unusual to create a system of no forgiveness. And I believe that is gist of MADD’s take on DUI’s; the act is unforgivable. The thing with toxins is they directly affect the part of the brain involved with logic and decision making. I did not logically decide to get behind the wheel after drinking. Perhaps you should concentrate your efforts in lobbying policies which would result in vehicles which cannot even be started if the person who attempts to drive has any alcohol in their system. The technology is there, smart keys and interlocks should come standard in all vehicles. I know you mean well, but your anger blinds you to the humanity that binds us to one another. Just so you know, MADD, I forgive you. I only hope you find it in your hearts to do the same.
Submitted by RuiningLivesNotSavingThem at 07:06 PM on September 20, 2014
To Jan Withers or any other high-ranking MADD official who reads this: Your organization is the legislative equivalent of Frankenstein's Monster. I can say with 100% certainty that MADD's endeavors do next to nothing to actually protect the innocent. While your current nationwide guilt-trip of a crusade may have started off as a well-meaning attempt keep unnecessary fatalities from occurring, it is now an assault on individual liberties that puts even the Patriot Act to shame. I only wish to ask a few questions I have been dying to know the answer to: Why, after all the this time, have you not once released the statistics of either the people who DO arrive home in one piece after moderate drinking and driving (not DRUNK driving), or the danger levels of impaired driving compared to other forms of reckless driving (texting, putting on makeup, eating, in the rain with broken wipers, speeding, etc.)? Also, if your organization's position is as saintly and pious as you make it out to be, then why do you have to resort to fear-mongering, brainwashing, scare tactics, constantly hyperbole, and overall demagoguery? Shouldn't the unadulterated truth speak for itself? Lastly, did you ever stop to think that maybe these Draconian, livelihood-crippling penalties are CREATING more criminals than they're deterring? Think about it: Someone caught DUI, arrested, charged (and subsequently convicted), and receives their punishment. Okay, it's fair that someone caught breaking the law serves their penalties, but now (thanks to your lobbying which uses every intellectually unsound argument that only sounds good to vapid, impressionable people), they're branded as being worse than rapists and killers, now have nothing left to lose because now they can't find work, so they resort to a life of crime in order to make a decent living. No, of of course. It's just better to foam at the mouth and call for blood.
Submitted by Unemployable 26 at 04:06 PM on September 18, 2014
I Received a dui three years ago for driving a motorized scooter around the neighborhood while intoxicated. Please tell me why this outweighs everything else I've done in my life and why I can't find a decent job to feed my family. Lets save lives. lets allow people back on their feet rather than making them feel like they have nothing left to lose.
Submitted by BANDA at 05:43 PM on September 11, 2014
I completely agree with the above comments i have a son who needs mental health evaluation and instead i have to leave my job to take him to all the mandatory classes for a DUI.. a whole new breed of people are going around committing other crimes as they have lost their jobs or cant get a decent job they have lost their license to operate a vehicle and end up committing suicide as they have nothing to live for .. you only have to have a child and be a parent to know the uselessness we have reduced our kids to instead of getting the real help a alcoholic needs we torture them further.
Submitted by Pat at 09:44 AM on September 10, 2014
I too have had multiple DUI's but it's not MADD's fault. There is a word called Personal Response-a-damn-bility! You made multiple bad choices before you got your DUI. You chose to go out and drink, you chose to drink over the legal limit, you chose, even with that voice in your head telling you that you might get caught, you still crank up your car, and chose to drive home rather than call a cab,friend,sibling, or co-worker. Because you deep down think you won't get caught. Then when you do, you want to point the finger. There are children walking this earth today, that would not be here, if it were not for stricter guidelines that have made a few second guess driving drunk because the risks outweigh the rewards. Me being one of them. I got 4 arrests in 5 years for DUI, and have not been in trouble in 7 years because I know the consiquinces that await if I mess up. And even first offenders make a choice. If you haven't educated yourself on the laws that's your fault, not MADD's. You don't shoot someone, because you know the penalties, you don't steal, because you know what will happen, you don't assault or cuss out a police officer who pulls you over for speeding because you realize the ramifications of those actions. And DUI is not a victimless crime! You just don't put others interest above your own when you chose to drink and drive, you decide to become the victim when you get caught and say well nothing happened so what's the big deal! What if something did happen, not like you could jump in a time machine and go change it. And that is the whole point everyone is missing! It is a crime that you chose to commit that could drastically change someone's life FOREVER because of actions you decided to take! There is no grey area here! I don't think anyone sitting in jail for vehicular homicide as a result of DUI is there because they set out that night to kill someone. And yes, I believe addiction is a disease, and a very much treatable disease, but forcing someone in rehab never has worked, and never will. They have to want it themselves, and the courts and legal troubles are a big motivator in making someone want to make different life decisions. Quit blaming MADD for your problems, step in the nearest bathroom, look in the mirror, and catch a big ol dose of man the hell up, and take responsibilities for your actions, and thank God you didn't kill someone when you made a choice to drive drunk. And the average person drives intoxicated 50 times before ever convicted of a DUI. So if you got arrested your very first time you ever decided to drink and drive, I will truly sypothize with you and say yes, u got handed a very shitty card in life, just as these MADD mothers have. But for the other 99.9% take some personal response-a-damn-bility for your actions, and the consiquinces of those actions.
Submitted by TR at 10:18 AM on September 3, 2014
I am the 18 year old that got one DUI...I am now 26, with a Master's and can not get work - thanks to extreme anger. MADD is out of control! MADD is ignorant, misleading and irresponsible...and their campaign is not saving lives or fixing problems - Great Job!
Submitted by Truthbtold at 02:49 PM on August 18, 2014
Unlike many of the comments I have read here today my son has had 4 DUIs he has spent 2 years in prison, lost his job,family and reputation among his children's friends parents. Wouldn't you think he was in need of help? We'll help is not what he has ever gotten. 1st DUI-he was pushing his car out of the rain as it stripped running. A Berks county policeman stopped and asked what the problem was. He smelled alcohol and asked him to take a breathalyzer test he refused and so he was convicted of a DUI for not blowing. Chances are he may have failed it anyway. BUT now, the money spent on lawyers, fines, and court costs, and the loss of his job give him no reason to stop drinking but instead the spiral down begins! Yes now he is breaking the law with no drivers license while driving himself to par time jobs Stops after work DUI # 2 He now does some time in a county prison. When released ....walla DUI 3. ( do we see an alcoholic pattern here?) Alcoholism runs in my family. Mother, aunts ,uncles Yada yada yada... Now he goes to prison for 2 years has been devorced and no chance to recover. He is in debt tens of thousands of dollars, no job , no family! His family is still supportive and his ex-wife still supports him emotionally.. He has given them the house he renovated ( he was a master carpenter and a hard worker.) but had no way of supporting them and the house bills Now? DUI 4! His 3rd DUI resulted in him hitting a parked car. Otherwise he has been blessed with not hurting anyone. Yes it could have happened! Now he is facing a lot of time and he is depressed. Here's my POINT.....instead of putting this man in debt he cannot ever recover from, with results in loss of family, children who visit their father in a prison....and more consequences then most people will ever understand.......COULD THEY HAVE GOTTON HIM HELP,!!!!??? Probably would have cost he tax payers and those loving him a lot less. I believe the only people who could possibly understand this loss are the Mothers Against Drunt Drivers Yes they have lost one of the most precious things life offers..however They have the vindication of "An eye for an eye". I am sorry for their loss. Truly! We are reminded each day of their loss but no one offers our family acts of kindness and we have not hurt anyone Thank God! Please if anyone out there knows how to move on from here please share the knowledge. Oh did I mention he had a court hearing he didn't show for? We never got the notice. Soooo the police surrounded the house ..SURROUNDED...came in with a search warrent and in front of his children who we're visiting him hand cuffed him and took him away! You should have seen his face and the and the faces of his children. Can't imagine what my neighbors think....murder?
Submitted by i know its over at 10:39 AM on July 19, 2014
I am 23 years old, offered DWAI instead of DUI after the police offer was discovered to be lying on the police report. I spend my evenings on the highway overpass, trying to think of a reason not to jump off. there aren't any.
Submitted by 4titude at 01:44 PM on July 10, 2014
MADD you did not post my first comment for whatever reason so I will try again: Your core statement, the one most repeated by the media is this: drunk drivers kill 16,0000 Americans a year - an impressive statement. With so many homicidal maniacs loose, your organization seems necessary and even noble. The only problem is this statement is a flat out lie. You know it is a lie. Where do you arrive at this statement from - apparently from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who puts it like this: 16,000 Americans are killed each year in alcohol related accidents. You have consciously took the term alcohol-related and twisted it into alcohol caused. What does alcohol related mean? It means someone involved in the accident had a measurable (not necessarily illegal) amount of alcohol in their system. They are not saying someone with alcohol in their system caused the accident - or was driving or was even inside a vehicle (ie. and intoxicated pedestrian hit by a sober driver). But, somehow, it is always the drinkers fault. My license was pulled by the secretary of state and for a drinking/driving conviction and I have NEVER even been in an accident - EVER. I have lost my job, my freedom, my self respect - not to mention an incredible amount of income because of legislation your organization has spearheaded in the name of making the roads safer. It seems you have destroyed countless lives with your propaganda and vindictive crusade (how many people have lost jobs, families, homes, life savings, committed suicide because of the unfair and excessive legislation your special interest organization has forced into law.). Drunk drivers that kill are a problem but not all those who have a beer, drive, and have the misfortune of being stopped by overzealous and greedy law enforcement agencies are killers - stop treating us as such, please.
Submitted by wpm327 at 12:54 AM on July 8, 2014
I had a DWI on my 51st birthday {March 27}. Since then I have lost my job, all of my savings, quite a few friends and a great deal of hope. I am {was} a teacher. When applying for jobs you are asked if you have had a DWI and I answer with the truth. I do not get interviews. Just received my lawyer's first bill. God help me, how do I start over at 52?
Submitted by Maggy at 08:00 PM on July 2, 2014
DUI laws are a disgrace. Intoxalock is more dangerous than driving totally hammered. Someone should try it. I remember the night my 21yr old son got a 2nd one. He fell to the floor in tears and said he wanted to die. My husband and I sat with him for hours trying to convince him life wasn't over. It pretty much was and still is. I could talk on this crooked subject for hours. People do commit suicide over this. I know a mother of 3 who is paying $65 3 times a week for a new mandatory counceling law. She makes very little $ and this bs is taking food off of her table. MADD I can honestly say I despise you and our government. My younger one got a bicycle one. It is treated as driving. No license for 7yrs. Pathetic.
Submitted by The truth at 05:47 PM on March 24, 2014
Jan Withers, Your organization is as much of an assault on individuals freedoms as is the current administrations. The work of the MADD organization does not save lives, I can assure you that. I will not even bother dissecting the extremely skewed statistics your organization spews, everyone with any due diligence can dissect your statistical rhetoric in the blink of an eye. Where are the statistics regarding repeat offenders that are actually alcoholics, that continue to drive regardless of the consequences and repercussions that a first time offender faces. When I received my DUI, I was 18 years old; just 6 months out of high school. I was sentenced to 3 days in jail and 3 days in a hospital out-patient program. I had no record what so ever. At the out-patient facility there were two individuals that had 12 and 16 DUI's respectively. The counselor made it apparent this was not an uncommon occurrence. I am now a 4.0 masters prepared medical professional and can STILL barely obtain work. I had an extremely difficult time getting approval to even take my state board of nursing examination that I aced in 75 questions (the minimum you can possibly take to pass). My entire life is a struggle, I cannot obtain jobs that forward my career as "Sorry, our company has a strict no DUI policy". Well sorry, I was 18 years old and got kicked out of my friends house by his girlfriend cause they were fighting, in the middle of winter, and drove home while noone was on the road at 330 in the morning, I was speeding 5 over; not swerving, not crashing into anyone. I cannot use my degree to it's full potential, I cannot get hired at large state hospitals. I cannot save lives. Your organization has lobbied for repercussions that destroy lives, not improve lives in order to make the world a better play; no one is reformed due to your organizations work. Your organizations lobbying efforts have simply made the state's more money and add it to decline of this nation's economy. It is easy to visualize the 16 time repeat offender, or alcoholic that kills a family and think tougher sanctions are needed; that is the drive of someone looking for revenge, your Ghandi/Mother Teresa Guise is only fooling others looking for revenge. The fact is, your lobbying has not helped a single life or prevented a single death. You have only led the march to the complete demise of anyone arrested for drunk driving and that includes numerous intelligent, highly educated individuals that could and should be able to leave that mistake in the past and not be affected by it in every facet of their life because some other individuals, the outliers, need to have something done to improve safety on the roads. How many public transportation systems have you designed and implemented? How much research as to the best and most viable treatment strategies and regimens? MADD has done nothing for those who are truly a danger to society. MADD is typical politician style rhetoric, no change; only ulterior motive. And it is not for the better of our societies.
Submitted by James D at 04:38 PM on February 17, 2014
I have absoluty ZERO respect for MADD they have ruined more lives then have saved. MADD is nothing but a group of extremeist forcing their ideology on people. Obviously a DUI/DWI is bad, but to ruin a person's life for one misjudgement. Why should someone's life be ruined because a cop wanted to meet their quota? And are back by the hypocrites of MADD.
Submitted by wastamylife at 03:10 AM on February 15, 2014
I hv a MASTER DEGREE & DIDN'T KILL ANYONE, yet in 7 years NO ONE wl give me work, in exception of bartending/waitressing.(Irronic, Aye?!) Strange how purposeful Murderers, Thieves, Drug Addicts,and Pediphiles of ALL People DO(Get 2nd chances?!) After 7 yrs. prior to my arrest, now YOU CAN PAY for MY Vitality through YOUR Taxes as I Quit & realize NO ONE will even give m4e a chance in my profession. PURPOSEFUL CRIMINALS DO GET REHABILITATION FOR ILLEGAL DRUGS, NT ALCOHOL (Whn your Nt deemed an Alcoholic!! Done Trying, & Thanks TAX PAYERS, guess Obama QWelfare on You ;)

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