February 7, 2007 was the day that forever changed Karen Mertes’ life path. Karen, a Lieutenant Colonel serving in the United States Air Force, was driving the speed limit on the interstate when she was struck from behind by a drunk driver traveling over 100 mph.
He had a blood alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit and the crash resulted in both vehicles being totaled. The axle in Karen’s car snapped in half, and her vehicle’s undercarriage dragged creating sparks on the interstate for several hundreds of feet.
Karen remembers being horrified at the smell of burning rubber in her vehicle. “During this time which seemed like an eternity to me, as my life hung in the balance, I made a bargain with God. I promised God that if I were blessed to live, I would spend the rest of my life helping others.”
Karen survived the crash but sustained multiple brain bleeds and was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Her memory, cognitive functioning, and personality were all impacted. Karen remembers looking at herself in the mirror and no longer recognizing who she was. She underwent months of physical therapy, and after rehabilitation returned to work.
Karen holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and two Master’s Degrees in Business Administration, and Cost Estimating & Analysis. Her education and professional attributes provided her with the required experience to excel as a Lieutenant Colonel.
When Karen returned to work, she found that she could no longer perform the complex memory-driven cognitive tasks that her job required. She had to embark towards a different direction in her life, and though devastated that she had to leave a career that she loved and worked endlessly for, she made a commitment to use her story for others.
“In every situation we have a choice, to stay a victim or become victorious despite all odds. I chose to be better, not bitter.”
The driver that made the choice to drink and drive and injured Karen, continued to make choices that harmed her. Before the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) results came back, he fled the state. The news was heart breaking. As she continued to face new challenges head-on and find ways to embrace her TBI, the person that caused so much pain and suffering chose to flee his problems and not be accountable for his actions.
Karen lived years thinking that he would never be punished, and that the criminal justice system was not looking for him or making the case a priority. She became her own advocate and it was through building relationships in the community that the Sheriff’s Department reached out to the State Attorney General and worked with other law enforcement agencies to extradite the offender back to the State of Florida. Five years after the crash, justice was served.
Since the crash, Karen has become a professional speaker sharing her story of triumph through tragedy with thousands of people across our country, inspiring audiences to achieve their highest potential no matter what. She is the founder of Fulfill Your Destiny, a nonprofit organization whose signature program awards ‘Business Builder Grants’ to entrepreneurs who have experienced life changing events of their own and desire to take their businesses to the next level. Karen continues to deliver on her promise and inspires others.
“I have come to own my TBI, I am determined not to be owned by it. My TBI has taken me to positive directions that I never would have gone. I found what most would have deemed obstacles have in fact become opportunities for different kinds of success.”
Join us in our mission to end drunk driving. Make a lifesaving donation today.
OFFICER JAMES FREDERICK “FREDDIE” NORMAN
Home City: Austell, Georgia
Crash Anniversary: April 17, 1988
Cobb County Georgia Officer Freddie Norman was given less than a 1 percent chance of surviving after a teenage drunk driver slammed into his patrol car as he was responding to an emergency call.
The crash left Officer Norman a quadriplegic and unable to talk, but he persevered and was able to communicate through a computer. He received the Blue Star Award, given to officers injured in the line of duty, and saw his daughter Christi Norman sworn in as an officer with the Austell Police Department.
Officer Norman succumbed to injuries sustained in the crash 21 years later, on February 14, 2009. He is survived by his wife, Faith, three daughters and three grandsons.
“It is heartbreaking to see a loved one deal with severe disabilities all because a 16-year-old made a bad choice by becoming intoxicated and choosing to drive instead of calling a taxi or having a designated driver. Freddie was confined to a wheelchair with limited movement and unable to talk for 21 years. It took a toll on his body. It is devastating to lose a loved one as a result of drunk driving. As an officer, one of Freddie’s main goals was to keep drunk drivers off the road. What happened to Freddie does not have to happen again,” said Faith.
Can we count on you to help us end drunk driving?
Join us at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Walk Like MADD 2017!
MADD announced today the addition of a new Strategic Contributing Partner Pirelli®, whose support will help keep roadways and families safe. As part of the partnership, customers will receive a $60 VISA® prepaid card for every new set of Pirelli tires. Pirelli will donate $5 to MADD and give customers the opportunity to match the donation of $5 from May 26, 2017 through July 5, 2017.
“We are grateful to Pirelli for recognizing the critical need that drunk driving is still the leading threat on our roads and responding with support that will save lives,” said Colleen Sheehey-Church, MADD National President whose 18-year-old son Dustin was killed in an underage drunk and drugged driving crash.
In 2015, more than 10,000 people were killed and 290,000 people were injured in drunk driving crashes in the U.S.—that’s one death every 51 minutes and one injury every 2 minutes. Every day, an estimated 300,000 drunk drivers take to American roads.
In response, MADD focuses on awareness and advocacy by urging people to designate a non-drinking driver if their plans include alcohol, pushing for lifesaving legislation and providing free supportive services to victims of drunk driving. Since MADD’s founding in 1980, drunk driving deaths have decreased by 53 percent, 350,000 lives have been saved and nearly one million victims have been served.
“Pirelli is pleased to be supporting MADD and its efforts to promote safe driving with both American families and young drivers. Safety has always been very important to us in terms of developing new tires for our customers, which is why we have our ‘power is nothing without control’ motto. We hope we can help raise even more awareness for this worthy cause to drive making safe choices, as ultimately it will make roads safer and benefit everyone,” said Pierluigi Dinelli, CEO and Chairman Pirelli Tire North America.
Pirelli has been one of the world’s leaders in the tire industry for over 140 years, thanks to its ongoing commitment to research and development, which ensures it continues to provide innovative products for the road and track. Founded in Italy, Pirelli’s presence in North America continues to grow, with new tires designed specifically for North American driver needs and its first ever retail store P Zero World that launched in Los Angeles in 2016.
Last week, the Oklahoma Legislature voted overwhelmingly to make Oklahoma the 29th state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. If Governor Fallin signs SB 643 into law, all drunk driving offenders will need to install an ignition interlock for at least six months in order to drive. He has until June 10th to sign the bill into law.
Oklahoma could soon join all of the surrounding states — Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Colorado and New Mexico — in passing laws that require or highly incentivize all drunk driving offenders to use an ignition interlock.
MADD believes in these devices because we know they save lives. No other technology available today can stop a car from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath. Study after study has shown that ignition interlocks reduce drunk driving deaths — the most recent studies by the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University show reductions of 7 and 15 percent, respectively. That’s why we are working hard to pass these laws in every state.
Oklahoma’s law would require the use of interlocks for at least six months to regain driving privileges during a license revocation period. The legislation also creates the Impaired Driver Accountability Program (IDAP) to allow first-time offenders to attend treatment and other alcohol programs while using an ignition interlock to ensure public safety. Upon successful completion of the program, the offense would be sealed — a new incentive to get more people using an interlock (and the subject of an upcoming blog, so stay tuned).
When MADD launched our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® in 2006, we set out on an ambitious mission to pass all-offender ignition interlock laws in all 50 states. Back then, just one state — New Mexico — had such a law. In just a few weeks, with Governor Fallin’s signature, Oklahoma will bring us within 21 states of making our goal. That might sound like a lot, but we are already well past the half-way mark in just 10 years. One state at a time, we can achieve our goal of stopping repeat drunk driving offenses, and ultimately eliminating drunk driving once and for all.
Would you like to help advocate for an all-offender law in your state? Contact Frank Harris at email@example.com or call 202.688.1194 to find out how.
On Friday, March 17, 2017, a DWI Checkpoint was conducted in cooperation with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and the Springfield Police Department on MO 13 (Kansas Expressway) at Broadmoor Street in Springfield, Greene County, Missouri. Missouri Department of Transportation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving were present during the checkpoint. During the checkpoint 780 vehicles were contacted which generated the following results:
Missouri Highway State Patrol:
5 – DWIs (1 of which was a DWI drugs)
1 – Safety belt
1 – No driver’s license
3 – DWR / DWS
1 – Misd. drugs
2 – Felony drugs (meth)
1 – Other felony arrest
34 – Warnings
12 – SFST
9 – PBTs
Greene County Sheriff’s Department:
2 – DWIs
2 –Warrants (Parole Absconder and Forgery)
1 -- Possession of Controlled Substance (9.5 grams of meth, 1 gram of heroin)
1 -- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
1 -- Possessed 35 Grams or Less of Marijuana
1 -- DWLR (Driving While License Revoked)– Felony
1 -- DWLR
1 -- MIP (Minor In Possession)
Springfield Police Department:
2 – DWIs
3 – DWR (Driving While Revoked) / DWS
The weather was clear and the temperature was mild. The number of motorists entering the checkpoint was as expected. A clear message was sent to the motoring public that there is a “zero tolerance” for driving while impaired and each officer should be commended for their efforts. MADD is grateful to law enforcement for dedicating their time, resources and lives to keeping our roads safe. Numbers like these show just how valuable their dedication is.
When an innocent bystander is killed or injured in a drunk or drugged driving crash, certain expectations fall into place.
We expect the offender to understand the consequences of their actions. We expect the punishment to fit the crime. We expect justice.
Sadly, far too often, there is no justice for victims. After all, as one victim said, it’s called the “criminal” justice system, not the “victim” justice system. The complex and confusing justice system can be difficult and emotionally exhausting to navigate.
So, today, we are sharing seven ways a victim or survivor could find the justice system frustrating.
- The offender may not be arrested immediately – If the offender was injured in a crash they are often taken to the hospital rather than jail. In doing so, many offender’s do not get arrested for quite a while after the crash because police don’t want to have to pay for the medical expenses of the offender if they are taken into custody. That doesn’t mean an arrest won’t happen, it just means it may take some time.
- Offenders often bond out – If you have lost a loved one or been injured, your life dramatically changes from the moment of impact until, well, forever. You begin serving your sentence immediately. However, the same may not be true for the alleged offender. Since our justice system is based on the idea of innocent until proven guilty, offenders often bond out of jail until the trial begins. Victims share that it can be painful to see social media posts by the offenders as they continue living their life while the victims are left to pick up the pieces of what is left of their life.
- The charges – At MADD, we believe and push for charges that reflect how the offender made the choice to drive impaired, transforming their vehicle into a deadly and violent weapon. That’s why we support a felony charge in all crashes that result in a death or bodily injury. However, if the attorney in the case doesn’t feel they have a strong case, lesser charges may be brought. These charges may not even mention alcohol or drugs. The charges can go as low as “reckless driving” or “fleeing the scene of a crime,” a common offender tactic since it makes it more difficult to prove impairment.
- Delays – While not specific to drunk and drugged driving cases, delays can be a main source of frustration for victims and survivors. It is quite common for cases to take two years or even longer to reach the sentencing phase. The delays can and often do occur at every step of the case and can include delays by the alleged offender themselves, attorneys on either sides or even the judge due to scheduling purposes.
- Plea deals– Plea deals are common. This means if an offender was charged with a serious crime, it can become watered down. Few things frustrate a victim or survivor more than watching as justice slips further and further away. Plea deals, although frustrating, can sometimes be a good thing in a case where sympathetic jurors can chip away at a rock solid case, sometimes causing a mistrial or a not guilty verdict.
- Sentencing – Once a case FINALLY gets to the sentencing phase, the frustration may not be over yet. Complacent attitudes about drunk and drugged driving, a misguided attempt not to “ruin” the offender’s life and other factors often lead judges to sentence offenders leniently. In some cases, the law itself provides sentencing guidelines which many victims and survivors don’t find acceptable for the death of a loved one or injury due to a crash.
- Absconded – Sometimes, such as in the case of the Affluenza teen, offenders flee from the consequences of their crimes. This can leave victims with little recourse through the justice system unless the offender is later caught.
A MADD Victim Advocate can help make the criminal justice system less scary, less intimidating and less frustrating by preparing victims for likely scenarios and outcomes. Even if an advocate cannot change the court’s mind, they will stand with a victim, hold their hand and ensure no one has to go through this alone.
If you are a victim or survivor of drunk and drugged driving, please call our national, 24/7 Victim Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP.
This week we went to visit the Grand Prairie Police Department to provide teddy bears for them to give to children endangered by drunk driving. The truth of the matter is that over 50% of children involved in a drunk driving crash are riding with the offender. This can be a terrifying and traumatic experience for a child and MADD wanted to give teddy bears to police officers so that they might be able to give a bit of hope to scared children in just such a situation.
By donations from you, we were able to secure nearly 250 teddy bears for departments to request and for their officers to share with these endangered children. We are proud to say we were able to fill not only the request of the Grand Prairie PD but also many other police departments.
The timing for this event could not have been more perfect as this week (May 15-21) is Law Enforcement Appreciation Week. We want to make sure to thank Good Bears of the World, which provided the bears, as well.
At this event, MADD North Texas Manager of Victim Services Terri Peaks took the opportunity to mention the statistics behind child endangerment and drunk driving as well as to recognize the Grand Prairie PD for their efforts to end drunk driving.
Drunk driving victim Donna Davila told her story. In 2014, her then pregnant daughter was killed by a drunk driver in Fort Worth. Davila lives very near the Grand Prairie Police Department and it is especially heartening to her to see these officers show support so close to home.
She was grateful for the opportunity to share her story and also to thank the officers for dedicating their lives to protecting our roads.
As Davila said in a Dallas Morning News article, these bears can bring children the peace they need. MADD thanks you for helping us give these little bundles of hope to children in desperate need of just that -- hope.
If you haven't donated toward a teddy bear yet, it's not too late! You too can join us in offering hope to endangered children here: madd.org/bearhug
If you missed the Facebook Live broadcast, watch it now!
#MADDLive Passing out donor-funded teddy bears for endangered children to the Grand Prairie PolicePosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on Tuesday, May 16, 2017
What's a Walk without a t-shirt?
Help us celebrate the 10th anniversary of Walk Like MADD and select next year's official from the three designs below. Vote now!
Do you try to make your mom proud?
|Joshua with a picture of his mom, Kelly, who was killed by a drugged driver.|
Every morning, I move my bowl to the sink like she taught me. At school, I pay attention to my teachers, because she said education was important. And at night, I say my prayers, remembering to be grateful for all I have.
I think I make my mom, Kelly Tisdale, proud…but I don’t know for sure. A drugged driver killed her as she crossed the street five years ago when I was eight years old. So, I am doing something I KNOW she would be proud of me for – I am asking you to honor all moms by giving to Mothers Against Drunk Driving today.
I always imagined being an adult meant making good decisions. How could an adult decide it was okay to drive after taking drugs? How could the offender drive off after hitting my mom? How was I supposed to keep living without her?
Grandma says Mothers Against Drunk Driving® stepped in to help her understand and prepare for the court case. She says they helped her find someone for me to talk to about my mom. They helped us keep going. That’s why I am hoping you will make a donation today.
When your mom is killed, you need someone like MADD to be there for you. They have helped nearly one million victims and survivors like me at no charge. I want them to be there for the next scared little boy.
My name is Joshua, and I am 14 years old. A drugged driver stole my mom from me. We need our moms. Please give to MADD today.
In recognition of National Police Week, established in 1962 as a time to honor the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to protect and serve, we pause to say thank you to all law enforcement officers and to remember the 143 officers killed in the line of duty last year.
This is a special week for Mothers Against Drunk Driving® and all of our supporters. Supporting law enforcement is a major component of our longstanding Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Law enforcement plays a critical role in the fight to end drunk driving — and it often comes with a high cost. This year, we have already lost more than 40 heroes in the line of duty.
So, let's take a moment to say thanks. We will keep saying it all year long, thanks in part to our valuable partner Nationwide®. Together, we will host Law Enforcement Recognition events across the country. These events provide an opportunity to recognize outstanding service in the fight to create a future of No More Victims®.
Additionally, we are proud to update you regarding the Give a Bear Hug campaign, which earlier this year asked supporters to donate to provide law enforcement with teddy bears for young children. MADD donors provided enough to pass out nearly 250 bears, which have been mailed out. Be on the look out for pictures of the distribution on Facebook and Twitter!
Finally, we encourage you this week to take a moment on your favorite social media channel to say thank you to your local departments. They need to know we appreciate their service.
In December of 2012, Nancylee Salerno was returning home from holiday shopping when a 29-year old drunk driver entered an I-84 off-ramp traveling in the wrong direction. Several cars swerved to avoid the wrong-way driver, but Nancylee did not have enough time and her car was hit head-on. Nancylee was rushed to the hospital where she succumbed to her injuries a few hours later on December 23rd, just two days before Christmas. She was 61 years young.
Nancylee was a beloved wife, mother to five children, and grandmother to three. She was a long-time resident of Southington and is remembered fondly for her endless energy, giving spirit, and love for children. She was a fighter and proud breast cancer survivor. Nancylee was actively involved in the family businesses, Tops Market and Carmela Marie, when she wasn’t practicing her nursing profession serving her pediatric patients. Her family cherishes the time they had with her, but feel she was robbed of enjoying her retirement, traveling, and spending more time with her grandchildren, many of whom she will never meet.
Inspired to keep Nancylee’s memory alive and to support others affected by the crime of drunk driving, family members came to their first Tri-Town Walk Like MADD. The year after, more family members joined and their business became a sponsor and their passion for helping others grew. MADD Connecticut is honored to dedicate the 2017 Tri-Town Walk Like MADD in memory of Nancylee Salerno. The Salerno family has shown outpouring support from attending walk committee meetings to team participation and sponsoring and donating products to the walk. MADD Connecticut is grateful for the hard work and compassion the Salerno family has shown.
Here Nancylee is shown (left) with her husband John and daughter Emily Salerno Gould (right)
Last week, the Governors Highway Safety Association released an update to its 2015 report on drug-impaired driving. As a result, some media coverage of the report has suggested that drugged driving has overtaken drunk driving in terms of traffic fatalities. This interpretation of the data included in the report is incorrect and has the potential to harm MADD’s efforts to strengthen drunk driving laws.
There is no doubt that drugged driving — meaning drugs other than alcohol — is a serious problem. In 2015 MADD expanded our mission to include drug-impaired driving, with a commitment to continue serving victims of both drunk and drugged driving. We know that all victims of impaired driving endure the same devastating consequences, and MADD will always be there to support victims of this 100 percent preventable crime.
In addition, MADD advocates for policies based on research and science to help prevent alcohol and drug-impaired driving. That’s why it’s so important to make sure all data is presented accurately. MADD’s main concern with the report is how the data is being interpreted, as covered in a recent article in The Washington Post. The GHSA report announced that drugs were found in 43 percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes vs. 37 percent in alcohol involved crashes, leading to headlines like this one from CNN: “Drugged driving surpasses drunken driving among drivers killed in crashes, report finds.” The problem is this isn’t true.
- The tests for drugs and alcohol and the data reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) are completely different, so the percentages drawn from that data do not represent an apples to apples comparison.
- In fact, in a 2014 fact sheet, NHTSA cautions against using the FARS drugged driving data “to make inferences about impairment, crash causation, or comparisons to alcohol from this limited data.”
- FARS calculates alcohol-related deaths using blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests and through statistical models that estimate BACs for drivers missing test results. There is a scientifically demonstrated correlation between the BAC level and impairment.
- There is not a similar way to establish impairment by drugs or apply a similar formula for presence of drugs or drug impairment when a test result is missing. Drug testing procedures also vary considerably by state and even within states.
- Tests for drugs (other than alcohol) are conducted on a limited pool of drivers — often only when presence of drugs is suspected. Therefore, a jurisdiction that tests more drivers may have a higher percentage of drivers who are known to be drug-positive.
- Tests for drugs (other than alcohol) can detect presence of a wide range of drugs, from illegal substances to over the counter and prescribed medications which may or may not have been misused. And unlike alcohol, there is no measure of the amount of the drug.
- The presence of drugs found in a driver’s system does not mean impairment, nor does it imply that drug use was the cause of the crash. Drug tests may not reflect recent use, but use days ago. Currently, there is no way to distinguish presence of drugs and impairment.
- If drivers with any presence of alcohol were considered, the death toll attributed to alcohol use would be even higher.
It’s important to remember that alcohol is a drug. It took decades to learn that the level for illegal alcohol impairment was .08 BAC, and to establish routine tests for BAC in drivers in fatal crashes. The tools for measuring alcohol impairment are well established. The same cannot be said for drug impairment, but that doesn’t diminish the seriousness of drug-impaired driving. MADD will continue to press for research, new laws and development of tools to eliminate — once and for all — the senseless, dangerous and completely preventable crime of driving while impaired by any drug.
Today, MADD hosted its PowerTalk 21® press conference in Washington, DC with the National Alcohol and Beverage Control Association and Nationwide to release new parent survey data, which shows that parents are concerned about teen drinking during special occasions such as prom. Teen drunk and drugged driving victim, Kashira Brooks and her son spoke. Leading underage drinking researcher Dr. Robert Turrisi from Penn State also presented.
(Press Conference begins at 15:00)
Read the press release MADD distributed after the press conference with more in-depth information.
Leroy, who lives in Arizona, is the brother of a MADD Bay Area San Francisco volunteer. Leroy recently fell and broke his hip and is currently in rehab. He’s a long-time supporter of MADD Bay Area Walks, and he treasurers wearing his many Walk T-shirts.
Leroy was wearing one of his MADD T-shirts yesterday when a wheelchair-bound patient at the rehab facility asked him about the shirt. This disabled fellow has been living in this rehab facility for the past 9 years after being struck by a drunk driver. Leroy offered him his MADD T-shirt, literally “giving him the shirt off his back”.
Though we can see that the fellow struggles, we were moved by his “thumb’s up” attitude as he proudly donned his new shirt. He has difficulty speaking, but was able to say “Good Deal!” as he was putting his thumb up.
We just never know how many people we’re reaching… even thousands of miles away.
Thank you to everyone who gave in support of securing the lifesaving power of in-care breathalyzers across the country.
In-car breathalyzers, or ignition interlocks, prevented 955 drunk driving attempts every TEN minutes in the last year – and, thanks to you, they will continue to make our roads and highways safer.
Thanks to generous donors, we have the ability and opportunity to press hard in the 22 remaining states without this lifesaving protection.
You are making headlines like this...
and especially this...
For 2017, we’ve hit the ground running. We’ve been working hard in Florida to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. We are working in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, too.
Today, we have this protection in 28 states and the District of Columbia. I personally thank you for this compassionate, lifesaving gift, and I pledge to maximize the good it can do so that others don't experience the devastation caused by this 100% preventable crime.
Once more, thank you to everyone who joined in supporting our efforts.
MADD honors David Weinstein and recognizes his loved ones who began our St. Louis Walk Like MADD. His story will live on. Watch the video:
When Cathy Dewitt, Cody’s mom, visualized her oldest son’s high school graduation she dreamed a time of joy, celebration, and planning ahead for the next stage of his life. Cathy was excited about the numerous possibilities for Cody; she never imagined that she would sit next to an empty chair covered with flowers and an unworn cap and gown.
Cody was a few months shy of graduation, and beginning the next chapter of his life. He had done the hard work—completed homework, paid attention in class, participated in projects and earned his degree. Yet due to someone’s choice to drink and drive, Cody did not live to see the fulfillment of all of his hard work and plans.
On December 24, 2011, Cody hugged his mother goodbye. He went to a friend’s house to enjoy the last of his winter break. Cody and his friends hung out in the friend’s garage and drank alcohol until 1:15 AM, when they were asked to leave. Cody was riding in a passenger seat when the driver lost control of the car and hit a tree. Less than a mile away from home, the impact of the crash killed Cody instantly.
Cathy describes the next year of her life as a blur. She shares few memories of the day that she learned her son was killed. She remembers Cody’s friends at her door telling her that he had been in a crash. She remembers arriving at the scene of a blocked off road and seeing the word “coroner” on the side of the vehicle. She remembers feelings of shock and haze, being physically present but mentally and emotionally absent. That shock stayed with her for an entire year, “I don’t remember the first year after the crash, by the second year I started to realize that the crash did happen, and by the third year I started to grieve”.
Cody was a country boy at heart. He loved cutting wood, hunting, camping, fishing and being outdoors. “He was so active and always had to be doing something. As soon as he turned 16 he got a job to help me out.” Cathy, Cody, and Ben (Cathy’s youngest son) were a team. Together they were one. They did everything with each other and for each other. Cathy recalls a conversation with Cody days before the crash, “he told me that he wanted to have fun for a little bit before he had to grow up.”
A night of fun and someone’s choice to drink and drive changed many lives forever. Cody died, the driver was sentenced to six years in prison, Ben lost his best friend and big brother, Cody’s girlfriend lost her first love, and Cathy struggles to live the rest of her life without her son.
Their stories are examples of the devastating consequences of drinking and driving. Cathy believes that this is a community problem for which we are all responsible to prevent. “It affects more people than you’ll ever know, EMT, hospital staff, bystanders, neighbors, friends, everyone”. Cathy wants young people to think of how many lives they touch every day. She shares her story in hopes that she can prevent others from experiencing the grief that she lives with daily. Cathy now volunteers as a speaker at Victim Impact Panels and is committed to help MADD fight for its mission of No More Victims®. Drinking and driving is a 100 percent preventable crime, but even one life lost due to underage drinking is unacceptable. There needs to be zero tolerance for underage drinking considering two out of three underage drinking deaths do not even involve a motor vehicle.
MADD encourages parents talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking. Kids who start drinking young are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol-related crash. MADD believes by taking proactive steps to protect our loved ones, especially our children, we can achieve a future of No More Victims®.
For the past seventeen of twenty-five years in law enforcement, I have worked for the Irving Police Department in Irving, Texas. Irving is located in Dallas County which is one of the highest counties in the State of Texas for DWI related crashes and arrests, second only to Harris County (Houston).
The first two years of my career in Irving, I was assigned to the patrol division and for the last fifteen years I have been assigned to the nighttime DWI Unit as one of five DWI enforcement officers or traffic homicide investigators. My primary function is to investigate any drug or alcohol related intoxication assault or manslaughter cases.
When I’m not working on those types of cases, I roam the nearly 80 miles of highway Irving has looking for impaired drivers in an effort to reduce or eliminate these types of crashes. It’s a job that I take very seriously and one that I can say truly makes a difference every day our team of dedicated professionals come to work!
As DWI officers, I truly believe that we have the most important job within the police department. I know many other officers will say this about their specific fields of expertise as well, but let me explain why DWI enforcement is so important. Stopping impaired drivers is the only job that you really do make a lifesaving difference every day you come to work.
When you think about it, intoxicated driving is the only offense across this great nation that can go from a low level misdemeanor to a high level felony in literally the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately when it does, that means someone is seriously injured or has lost their life as a result of an intoxicated driver.
Officers who are assigned to DWI Units around the nation have a commitment in their field that is second to none within law enforcement. Any officer who gets transferred to our DWI Unit recognizes that this position is not based on seniority, great working hours or days off, and that they can expect that they will be working every major holiday or event due to high alcohol consumption.
An officer knows going into this field that there is a lot of specialized training to be an effective officer. Our Unit sends officers to Standardized Field Sobriety Instructor School (SFST), Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE), and Crash Reconstruction School to give the officers the knowledge they need to more effective on the road. This is true dedication to your profession.
With all the training that comes with the job, we constantly have to go through re-certification classes to keep up with the changing trends. Case law for our specific field is ever changing and evolving and new and improved enforcement techniques are constantly being sought after.
Being a DWI enforcement officer means many hours away from our families during the holidays. When other people get additional time off from work to celebrate, DWI officers get additional days to work to help keep our roadways safe from intoxicated drivers. Unfortunately, we are far outnumbered by intoxicated drivers, but we give it our all in an effort to make sure everyone has the opportunity to get home safely.