By Donna Billingsley
My name is Donna Billingsley, and my son Stephen was killed instantly in a head on crash with a drunk driver March 7, 2003.
Stephen had a booming voice, a quick wit, an incredible imagination and a heart of gold. He loved chaos and controversy, and, if there wasn’t any, he made something up. He was an absent minded professor. His dream was to create anime with his girl Cass, who survived the crash.
Cass is from Australia, and they met through an online game. She came to the States about three months before the crash. Stephen was so nervous to meet her he got the time difference wrong and arrived at the airport a day early. He had to come home without her.
Stephen has a brother, Derek, and a sister, Paige. Partners in crime (hahaha). We each have our demons to deal with since the crash. For me, I cannot let Stephen or the reason he died be forgotten. My family has accepted my passion, and they just roll with it. His face is on the back window of my jeep so people can see who they are willing to kill if they drive drunk.
Even though it is difficult to get started each year for the MADD Walk, I am so grateful to be able to do good with the sadness I feel every day. With the help of my wonderful family, friends and generous community, I feel like we can make a difference.
This year, we set up tables at stores with posters and ribbons and asked everyone if they would like to help - and most did. Amazing people!!!
As long as anyone who loved Stephen lives and breathes, he will NOT be forgotten! To keep Stephen’s memory alive we will be walking on Saturday, September 10th at the Lubbock County Courthouse in Lubbock, TX. Please join us as we end drunk driving or make a donation.
Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its annual report on traffic fatalities for 2015. The bad news is that overall fatalities went up 7.2 percent. Alcohol deaths also went up, but the good news is that for the first time ever drunk driving deaths are below 30 percent of all crashes at 29 percent. Drunk Driving fatalities increased by 3.2 percent, from 9,943 in 2014 to 10,265 in 2015.
As a nation, we must do more to prevent these 100% preventable tragedies. The states that have good interlock laws continue to perform better than the others. We are making progress with our keen focus on our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and advocating for all offender ignition interlock laws. Since the Campaign was launched 10 years ago, the number of people killed in drunk driving crashes has dropped by 24 percent.
According to the new data, drunk driving deaths in West Virginia have been reduced by 50 percent since enacting an ignition interlock law for all offenders in 2008. The reduction just from 2014 to 2015 alone was 15 percent. New Mexico passed its all-offender ignition interlock law in 2005, and drunk driving deaths are down 37 percent, with a 16.2 percent drop from 2014 to 2015. Kansas also has seen a 37 percent reduction in drunk driving deaths since enacting an all-offender law in 2011, with a 22 percent drop from 2014 to 2015.
Other states with all-offender ignition interlock laws:
• Alabama (Effective July 2014): 5% reduction
• Arizona (Effective September 2007): 31% reduction
• Arkansas (Effective April 2009): 12% reduction
• Colorado (Effective January 2009): 14% reduction
• Hawaii (Effective January 2011): 23% reduction
• Illinois: (Effective January 2009): 13% reduction
• Louisiana (Effective July 2007): 33% reduction
• Mississippi (Effective October 2014): 16% reduction
• Missouri: (Effective March 2014): 9% reduction
• Tennessee: (Effective September 2013): 11% reduction
• Texas (Effective September 2015): 8% reduction
• Utah (Effective July 2009): 12% reduction
• Virginia (Effective July 2012): 8% reduction
• Washington (Effective January 2009): 19% reduction
MADD also applauds the 28 states and the District of Columbia that have passed all-offender ignition interlock laws. But we want to see every state pass laws that will save lives. This year, MADD calls on the 22 states that don’t have an all-offender ignition interlock law to take action to protect their residents and visitors. We challenge every state with an all-offender law to evaluate and improve existing laws to ensure all offenders use an ignition interlock as soon as possible after a drunk driving offense.
Together, we will create a Nation of No More Victims!
What’s a MADD membership perk?
It’s the knowledge that you’re contributing to the declining number of drunk driving deaths.
It’s the passion you receive from working toward the challenging, yet achievable, goal of ending drunk driving.
It’s the feeling when you know you’re helping to strengthen laws, support victims of drunk and driving, and educate the next generation regarding the dangers of underage drinking.
If you have a moment, please let us know about what it was like to donate to MADD. It's really easy - simply click below to let us know if you would call your experience a positive or negative one.
Again, thank you. Your gift to our campaigns mean the world to us – and it means fewer people will have their lives turned tragically upside down by drunk driving.
Together, we will end drunk driving.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving applauds the recent landmark decision by Maryland Supreme Court, which advances the prevention of underage drinking by holding adults accountable for illegally providing alcohol to underage drinkers. MADD is proud to have filed an amicus brief in the Nancy Dankos, et al. v. Linda Stapf case, asking the court to hold adults liable for deaths or injuries caused by the underage drinkers.
The Dankos ruling is the result of a tragic case in Maryland that claimed the life of high school football star Steven Dankos, who, along with other friends, climbed into the bed of a pickup truck driven by an intoxicated driver. They had been drinking at a party hosted at the home of Linda Stapf. As a result, Steven’s mother sued Ms. Stapf.
The court’s ruling in favor of Ms. Dankos puts so-called “cool parents” on notice that they will be held morally, criminally and now financially responsible for the consequences of their actions. Not only does the court’s decision establish proximate causation when “cool parents” intentionally and knowingly allow children to consume alcohol on their premises, but it also removes any issue of contributory negligence on the part of the underage drinker. In other words, “cool parents” may be held 100% responsible.
There is a cultural shift occurring across the country that underage drinking is not cool. It was not cool that Ms. Stapf allowed children to get drunk in her garage. It was not cool that Ms. Stapf allowed high school football star Steven Dankos to get into the back of a truck with a drunk driver. It was not cool that Steven lost his life and Nancy Dankos lost her son at the young age of 17. This landmark decision in Maryland will save the precious lives of children across the country.
MADD will continue to advocate for the criminalization of actions by adults who provide or allow alcoholic beverages at events for underage participants. The 21 minimum drinking age is one of the most researched and reviewed public health laws in our country and has saved about 800 lives per year. MADD encourages all parents to support the 21 drinking age and talk to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking.
Let’s be clear however, underage drinking is an adult problem. In order for those under 21 to obtain alcohol, an adult somewhere must break the law. For parents who provide or permit underage drinking in their home, the case in Maryland and similar cases across the nation are stark reminders of the tragic consequences. MADD takes our mission to prevent underage drinking seriously. As this case reminds us, underage drinking is completely devastating and 100% preventable.
For more information on how to talk to your middle and high schoolers about alcohol, visit www.madd.org/powerofparents.
This past weekend, San Diego was plagued with three alleged drunk driving crashes that ripped apart three separate families - all within hours of each other.
The crashes killed three people, including a victim who may have been trying to stop someone from driving drunk. The devastation took place between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
"This was obviously a devastating weekend for our community, and I only hope it helps the public understand that this problem is real. This problem is relevant. And we need to take action," said MADD San Diego Program Specialist Cristi Walker.
The First Crash
The first crash struck at 7 p.m. Saturday in Ramona when a full-size Chevrolet pickup truck with a 51-year-old male driver struck a late model Buick sedan and a Mini Cooper, according to Channel Seven in San Diego.
The Mini Cooper caught fire, resulting in the death of the driver at the scene. The driver of the Buick sustained non-life threatening injuries, and the truck driver received a broken wrist. Drunk driving became a possible cause after law enforcement officers discovered beer cans in the truck driver's vehicle. He has been arrested on alcohol-related charges, including felony vehicular manslaughter.
The Second Crash
Then, around 1 a.m. Sunday on Camina Ruiz in Mira Mesa, a 21-year-old man t-boned the vehicle of a 19-year-old driver, who was pulling onto the street. The 19-year-old driver died at the hospital. Alcohol is suspected in the crash. The 20-year-old alleged offender received non-life threatening injuries.
The Third Crash
The third crash occurred in Mira Mesa by a hotel, possibly because the victim was trying to STOP someone from drunk driving.
Jonathan Merkley, according to witnesses, stood in front of a car in an effort to prevent a friend from driving after drinking. The suspect got into his vehicle, allegedly hit Merkley, and fled the scene.
How many more crashes will take place tomorrow or the next day? We have the ability to stop this 100% preventable crime. Isn't it time we say enough is enough?
Let's prevent this type of weekend from reoccurring.
Hear from MADD Colorado Difference Maker Jen Clouse as she shares how one of the first families she served has progressed along their healing journey - and how that personally impacted her and her efforts to support victims.
She originally shared this during a MADD staff meeting. At MADD, we often begin meetings with a brief story about a victim or survivor. We call these "Mission Moments," and they remind us of why we do what we do - and why we don't stop until we end drunk driving.
By Jennifer Clouse
Lead Victim Services Specialist
I wanted to share a moment I had recently with a couple named Mike and Stacey Jones.
They were the first new case I got when I started at MADD in 2012, and they have been with us ever since. Their son, Daniel Michael Jones, was a student at the University of Colorado. He was pursuing a degree in in Environmental Engineering, but he had recently discovered a passion and a talent for drawing and painting. I’ve seen his art, and it's incredible.
On the evening of May 26, 2012 Daniel was driving home. It was Memorial Day weekend. Coming from the opposite direction was a 24-year-old driver, who was impaired by drugs and alcohol. Speeding more than 100mph, he crossed the median and hit Daniel head on. Both cars were engulfed in flames; both young men were killed.
When MADD CEO Debbie Weir visited the Colorado office recently, we talked about this family, and Debbie brought up the idea of getting a Portrait for Healing done for the family. The portrait of Daniel arrived last week, and it was beautiful.
I met up with Mike and Stacey at a golf tournament they hold every year to fund the scholarship they started in Daniel's name. The portrait was a surprise for them, and their reactions to this surprise filled my heart. Stacey brought her hand over her mouth, and she started crying.
Then, she touched the drawing of Daniel's face as if it was actually his face. I looked over at Mike. He is a big teddy bear of a guy. There were tears at the corner of his eyes, and he put his head down. Mike said his son's name, “Daniel" - just like we do when MADD honors victims and survivors.
Before going to the golf tournament, I had been feeling overwhelmed with the heaviness of what we do, but, after watching them receive this portrait, I felt lighter. It of course reminded me of why we do what we do and how we make a difference.
But beyond that, it reminded me of the gift that our victim families bring to our organization.
They bring something that cannot be quantified. For me personally, Mike and Stacey gave me a memory I will cherish. The next time I am feeling overwhelmed and heavy, I will remember the look in Stacey's eyes when she looked at the drawing of her son. I will remember the gentle way she touched the picture and cried. I will remember mike's tone of voice when he said Daniel's name. And I will remember how tightly they hugged me when I left.
I am so grateful that I got to be part of that moment with them. And I am also grateful that I was able to share that moment with everyone at the staff meeting.
This Labor Day weekend, when so many law enforcement officials and first responders will be working so hard to prevent more tragic drunk driving deaths, let us thank them for their labors.
In the last decade, more than 600 police officers have lost their lives in traffic fatalities, making it the number one cause of officer deaths. Every day and night, these officers work to protect us, even when it calls for the ultimate sacrifice.
So, this month, we’re asking restaurants big and small in all 50 states to open their doors Wednesday August 31st to provide a meal to law enforcement officers and all first responders in recognition of their efforts to keep our roads safe.
Let us make this a moment to unite in gratitude, to celebrate our communities and those who protect it, and to unanimously say in one voice, “We know your job isn't easy, and we can't say thank you enough.” Check here to see if your favorite restaurant has already joined with us or invite them to participate today.
If you are a restaurant owner, will you put your own Blue Line Special on the menu for one day? Discover how you can take part in this community-building event here.
MADD recognizes the critical role law enforcement officers play in ending drunk driving. In fact, supporting active, visible law enforcement efforts is a major part of our three-pronged blueprint for ending this criminal behavior, along with advanced technology and ignition interlocks. Supporting sobriety checkpoints, providing victim notification training, and recognizing the heroes who put their lives on the line every shift are just part of the ways MADD supports the law enforcement and first responder community.
We have so many lessons to impart to our children.
Eat your vegetables. Keep your hands to yourself. Treat others as you wish to be treated.
And, most importantly, be safe. Please, above all, be safe, we tell them without always providing the necessary, actionable information to do so, especially when it comes to alcohol.
Telling them to be safe just isn’t enough then.
Talking to your child about not drinking until 21 years of age becomes even more difficult thanks to a culture complacent about drunk driving, advertising that targets teens, and peer pressure.
That’s why MADD developed its Power of Parents® program, which aims to put the information and strategies that work to prevent underage drinking directly in a parent’s hand.
When we started the program, we had quite a lot to say.
MADD’s Power of Parents handbooks provide you the tools needed to start talking with your teens and middle schoolers about this important topic. By reading these handbooks and following their guidelines, you can substantially reduce the chance your son or daughter will drink before the age of 21.
While the information and tactics remain valid, we understand the handbooks take a little time to plow through and may cover more topics than a parent needs at that moment.
That’s why we are proud to share the creation of customized, bite-sized topical guides, each focused on a specific topic related to preventing underage drinking. Sponsored by the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, the guides will serve as quick reads that deliver a punch of just-the-right information and strategies.
The first topical guide, Your Teen’s World, will publish this summer. It will still include the insightful and highly useful data gathered by Dr. Robert Turrisi, whose groundbreaking research on teens and alcohol consumption continues to shatter drinking myths.
Next, this fall, we will share Parenting Styles, an in-depth examination of various parenting styles and the impact it has on whether a child drinks underage or not.
Talking About Alochol will publish sometime near the winter holidays. This guide will provide you with real, concrete tools to talk with your teen in a manner that gets through to them!
These shorter, more focused guides will make it possible for parents to receive just the information needed for specific topic at hands.
We look forward to sharing our new guides with you. Find out more about our Power of Parents here.
MADD caught up with two of the attendees after the Dallas County "Take the Wheel" Law Enforcement and Recognition Awards and Appreciation Luncheon.
Taking to Facebook Live, we asked them why they've committed to preventing drunk driving.
Hear from the honorees in their own words.
MADD featured Kellie Murphy Wheatley as one of our Voices of Victims last month.
These posts spotlight a gone, but not forgotten, drunk or drugged driving victim or survivor. Supporting drunk and drugged driving victims is a pillar of our orgazniation and a part of the mission we are so grateful to perform.
The family also took part in our Portraits for Healing campaign, receiving a hand-drawn sketch of their daughter. After receiving the picture, the family took a moment to recognize the artist, Bill Small.
We were so touched to know we had assisted the family in their personal healing journey. We are moved to share the note below.
We are so proud to have the opportunity to share a little bit of Kellie, and her parents George and Marilyn, with you.
Heavy rains today in our Jacksonville, Illinois community. I went to the mailbox about 11:00 a.m. and on my front porch was a large flat package from you. Luckily the mailman put this package where it was out of the weather…and dry! Most of my mail goes into the box mounted on a post in the yard!
I had been anticipating your gift to our family by way of our MADD National Office after the recent blog Nakeshia Harrell put together in memory of our daughter, Kellie, who was killed July 4, 1984 by the town drunk only a few blocks from our home. Kellie was 24 years old, and she left a husband, a 14 month-old son, an older brother and a devastated mom & dad. I can’t tell you how many friends Kellie had who still miss her, as we do.
The portrait is absolutely breath-taking and the two (2) additional print copies are greatly appreciated. We will display this portrait with pride and think of you and your kindness to victims of impaired driving crashes. Time does not heal all, and broken hearts are difficult to mend. Our lives go on, and we cope with the tragedy of the most preventable crime in America…..impaired driving!
Maybe our paths will cross again as we were together at the MADD National Conference in D.C. last June. Victims are able to continue a “normal” life after tragedy with the help of people like you. The cemetery is a terrible place to visit your only daughter….a lonely place with a one-sided conversation.
We’ll keep working to prevent other moms & dads from receiving the “knock-on-the-door” like we received 32 years ago telling us of the death of our Kellie. Such a senseless loss of life…..
Thanking you and appreciated,
George and Marilyn Murphy
Not all drunk or drugged driving victims die.
Many survive, only to struggle to adapt to their new life due to life-altering injuries. And their family often faces a new life, which can include providing care for their loved one, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
That’s exactly what happened to Julie Torbert. Read more of her story here.
Julie joined us on Facebook Live to share her story.
There are a lot of ways to get rid of a used vehicle, but only one way that can help keep your loved ones safer on the roadways.
By donating an unwanted car, truck or boat to MADD, you’ll support our mission to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking. It’s a great way to make a big impact with just a little effort. Watch as MADD CEO Debbie Weir demonstrates just how easy the process is by donating her old vehicle.
Call our car donation program toll-free 1-855-GIV-MADD (855-448-6233).
Have you ever felt like you were meant to meet someone?
I was in Texas for Victim Impact Training for MADD. I was one of the first people to find a spot in the training room that day. There were several tables with plenty of seats available. A few people began to enter the room filling in the seats. Kathryn Dufour, who was a volunteer from the Boston office, sat next to me and introduced herself. Before you know it, I found out that she was from Aroostook County! What are the odds? We began to chat and the conversation steered towards realizing that we both had lost loved ones to this preventable crime.
In Kathryn’s words, here is Erin’s Story:
This is a photo of Erin Dufour, who died at the hands of a drunk driver March 18, 2009. At the time of her death, she was living in Tolland, Massachusetts. That day after work, she did some shopping for her new apartment, and she headed up Route 8 towards home.
While Erin was shopping, her offender was drinking shots at a local bar a few miles away. When she left the bar, she had consumed six shots druing a two hour period. She was extremely inebriated, with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, but she felt she could drive for some reason. A few minutes later, she was speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. She hit Erin's car head on. Erin suffered a broken neck and multiple fractures killing her. She had no time to react or avoid the crash. Her offender had only minor injuries.
I was in Phoenix at the time out taking a walk with my grandson. I didn’t know…I didn’t have a clue that my child was in trouble while I was enjoying my evening with Liam. Looking back, I can’t understand why I didn’t instinctively know that something horrible had happened to her. By the time I was told by the State Police that she was dead, three hours had passed. Three hours during which I felt the false security that my family was safe and well.
My husband and I have come to understand we will not get over Erin’s death. We will wake every day and feel the wrenching sadness of her absence. We will miss her laughter, her full body hugs, her perfect manicures, the way she said our names, and her kindness. We will miss her future.
We will always wonder what if…what if she had not moved out to Tolland with her girlfriend…what if she had not decided to pick up some cleaning supplies for her new apartment…what if she had chatted with the cashier five more minutes…what if someone had noticed that Erin’s offender was drunk…and what if she had been offered a ride home…what if?
Erin loved scary movies and amusement rides. She also loved Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. She loved country music and all things Ford. She fell asleep after the beginning credits of movies she insisted we all watch, and she was the best at choosing just the right gift for our birthdays. She loved Italian food and her favorite dessert was chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. She loved NASCAR, especially Jimmie Johnson, and two years in a row she participated in the Demolition Derby at the Northampton County Fair, winning Best in Show for her car, the “Queen Bee”.
Erin was a competitor. She loved sports and lettered as a freshman in both Softball and Soccer. In her sophomore year, she added throwing shot-put to fill the void between those two sports seasons and lettered in that as well. She loved to watch hockey and went to every home Albany River Rats games her senior year in high school.
Erin was faithful to her friends, always asking me for advice on how to help one or another when they encountered issues she felt needed a “mother’s touch”. So sad that I had to share memories with her friends from kindergarten, old boyfriends, high school teammates, and her work buddies at her funeral instead of at her wedding or another happy occasion.
I know I was meant to meet Kathryn that day and know I am honored to share Erin’s Story with you. We hope you will join us and Team Erin at this year’s first official Walk Like MADD in Maine. Register or donate at www.walklikemadd.org/aroostookcounty
When MADD saw how Pokemon Go motivated everyone to get outisde and walk, we thought it dovetailed nicely with our Walk Like MADD events, our signature fundraisers that take place across the nation.
So, Walk Like MADD Dallas headed out to Klyde Warren Park today to offer Pokemon trainers the opportunity to catch a few more little monsters and receive a $5 registration discount with the promo code "Pokemon."
With a lure set up at a Pokestop, we went on Facebook Live. Watch it now.
We snapped a few pictures of our hard-working fundraisers and some wild Pokemon.
By Ron Replogle, MADD National Law Enforcement Initiatives Manager and Retired Missouri State Highway Patrol
In May, I attended the Southwest Missouri Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Springfield, Missouri.
The service is conducted yearly to honor and memorialize the police officers who pay the ultimate sacrifice and are killed in the line of duty during the previous year. A roll call of the officer’s names and their agencies is conducted during the service.
Unfortunately, 128 names were read this year, one of which was Trooper James M. Bava of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the agency I retired from last year. Trooper Bava was only 25 years old, and he had served with the Patrol for just two short years when he died in a crash while trying to overtake a speeding motorcycle.
Sitting in the service, I began to think of the other 30 Missouri State Troopers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice during the MSHP’s 85 year history. Four of those troopers were struck and killed by drunk drivers.
One was Corporal Michael E. Webster, an academy classmate and close friend of mine. Corporal Webster was struck and killed by a drunk driver standing roadside while conducting a traffic stop on US 40 highway in Blue Springs, Missouri on October 2, 1993. He was struck by the drunk driver and carried on the hood of the vehicle for approximately 200 feet before the driver stopped.
Mike was transported to a hospital in Kansas City where he died the following evening. He was only 33 years old and left behind his wife, a 6 year old daughter and a 20 month old son.
Mike was one of those guys that everyone liked and he had an infectious smile. He never met a stranger and had a great career ahead of him. Unfortunately and sadly, that career was cut short and a mother was left alone to raise two young children because someone chose to drink and drive.
I will never forget my friend, Corporal Michael E. Webster, badge #473. Rest in peace brother!
Which Walk T-shirt Will You Wear in 2017?
As we prepare for the 2017 Walk Like MADD season, we are pleased to have the opportunity for the first time to ask for YOUR input into next year's t-shirt.
If you have ever participated in a Walk Like MADD event or other charity walk, you know many participants treasure the t-shirt for years. The shirt may represent a connection to a lost loved one or a reminder of a powerful and important event.
So this year, we proudly share with you three design options. Vote for your favorite. We will announce the winning design in August!
Which one speaks to you? Do you have a favorite? Or one that you feel best captures our shared mission to end drunk driving?
Late July 4th, 2013, two women lay in neighboring hospital bays side by side, bloody and bruised after a violent car crash. Both were 36 years old, but only one would have the opportunity to turn 37.
One woman – a successful attorney passionately fought for women’s rights, pushed herself to conquer new physical and mental challenges, and acted as a champion in the fight against drunk driving.
The other – a repeat drunk driver with a Driving under the Influence charge nine months prior. She was seen swerving and speeding along an Ohio road before the crash with what was later proven to be a .20 blood alcohol concentration.
Today, we remember Annie Rooney, taken from us on the Fourth of July, what was supposed to be a celebration of our country, our freedoms.
Annie's Law - Ignition Interlocks for all Ohio drunk driving offenders
What she did not have the opportunity to achieve in life – making Ohio roads safe from drunk driving – her family hopes to achieve in her honor. Today, the Rooney’s and other Ohio resident wait in eager anticipation of the passage of Annie’s Law, a bill that would require all drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock. The bill, which passed the House earlier this year, now must pass the Senate.
“Annie would understand that this isn’t a punishment; it’s a public health policy,” said her brother, Walt, who now serves on the national MADD Board. “This is like vaccinating your kids for polio."
“A conviction and an ignition interlock would have saved Annie’s life,” he said. “Drunk driving offenders are a very high-risk group for repeating the offense. Some people say, ‘Well, only a third of them will repeat.’ That’s like saying that only one bullet will kill you, so it’s okay to play Russian roulette.”
Somehow, it’s very fitting that Annie Rooney’s death may prevent drunk driving, as she served as a passionate advocate against the 100% preventable crime in life. She worked as a prosecuting attorney in Montana, often raising her voice against a cultural of complacency and judges who didn’t appreciate the severity of drunk driving.
She understood the dangers. Her father, a surgeon in Ohio, regularly saw the damage done by drunk driving, and he made sure to take that message home to his kids. In fact, he recommended she drive a suburban, as it has enhanced safety features.
But it wasn’t enough to save her that July 4th.
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.
Eventually, she crossed the center line on Highway 50. Annie tried to swerve. The offender t-boned Annie’s car near the front wheel on the driver’s side. If it had been a head-on impact, Annie might have survived.
Her mother, sitting at home watching television, heard about a crash. She texted her daughter to watch out for it. The text was later found on Annie’s phone, unread.
A witness immediately stopped. Annie was in pain but conscious, and she remained so for the next 90 minutes as first responders tried to pry her out of the vehicle. She was taken to the hospital where her father had worked previously, where it was decided to move her to a trauma center.
Upon her arrival at the trauma center, as her younger sister and father stood watching, Annie went into cardiac arrest.
“My younger sister has been traumatized. It destroyed her life,” Walt said. “Annie moved back home a year before the crash to take care of our parents. They haven’t been able to get passed it.”
While Annie’s Law has failed to pass once before, the Rooney’s remain optimistic. After all, it’s what Annie would have done.
“Annie had a sense of optimism that you don’t often meet. She was always trying to find the positive people,” said Walt. “That inspired me. It wasn’t how I looked at the world. She lived very intensely. She was driven to help people who didn’t have a voice.”
Now, Walt and her family will serve as the voice for Annie and all drunk driving victims. If you'd like to join with the Rooney family, please consider donating today. It's the last day of the Uber match, where Uber DOUBLES all donations up to $25,000.
"We will never forget what a special angel we had in Kellie. Time does not heal and broken hearts are difficult to mend.”
These are the words spoken by George and Marilyn Murphy, the parents of Kellie Murphy Wheatley.
Kellie was a person who always went above and beyond for others, and she could always brighten anyone's day. When asked how Kellie is remembered, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy replied, “Kellie's two sons, her niece, and our two great granddaughters all have so many of Kellie's mannerisms. We are blessed to see Kellie in other members of our family and that will keep Kellie's life alive in our family.”
On July 4, 1984, Kellie, 24, was hit by a drunk driver while riding bikes with her husband Orville and their 14 month-old son Christopher, who was in a carrier on the back of Orville's bike.
The family spent the day enjoying one another's company at a local park in Jacksonville, Illinois. They stopped their bikes alongside a secondary street in South Jacksonville to tuck a blanket Christopher was carrying onto his seat belt. Kellie was concerned it might get caught in the spokes of the bike. As they stood alongside of the city street, they were unaware that an intoxicated driver abruptly turned the corner. The driver hit Kellie and continued to drive down the road, not realizing he struck Kellie with his vehicle.
Kellie died instantly. Orville and Christopher were not injured, and the drunk driver spent seven months in prison for reckless homicide.
Although it has been 32 years since the crash, the Murphy family will always associate July 4th with the day Kellie lost her life because someone chose to drink and drive.