On March 17, 2012, an impaired driver recklessly driving 70 mph crashed into a car at a stop light, claiming the life of Tracey’s 10-year-old son, Tyler Biggins, and his best friend, Vincent, and Vincent’s parents.
Like so many others, Tyler’s life ended too soon. Tyler enjoyed all sports, he was very well known in the community, and he touched a lot of lives at the age of ten.
Tracey Biggins, team captain of Tyler's Allstar Team, is continuing the push to keep her son's memory alive through awareness and participating in the Tallahassee Walk Like MADD.
Tyler’s Allstar Team walked in the Tallahassee Walk Like MADD event on Saturday, April 16 for the second year in a row with 41 team members, who helped raise more than $3,035 that will stay local to provide programs and services to victims at no cost.
Drunk driving threatens all of us. More than 10,000 people die and 300,000 people are injured each year in drunk driving crashes.
Help us create a world where #DrunkDrivingEndsHere and there are #NoMoreVictims. Walk with us by finding an event near you at www.walklikemadd.org.
by Adam Vanek, MADD General Counsel
Last week, I had the honor and privilege to represent MADD in Washington, D.C. attending oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court in Birchfield v. North Dakota, et. al. MADD filed an Amicus Curiae Brief, or Friend of the Court, in this matter supporting law enforcement and the States’ fight against drunk driving.
In front of a packed courtroom, the Justices addressed whether States, without a warrant, may impose minor criminal sanctions — usually misdemeanors — against a suspected drunk driver who withdraws his or her implied consent and refuses to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test after arrest. North Dakota, Minnesota and at least 10 other states make it a criminal offense for a driver who has been arrested on probable cause for driving while impaired to refuse a BAC or chemical test.
The genesis of these criminal penalties, arises out of pure frustration by legislators and law enforcement that administrative sanctions, such as license revocation, no longer serve as a deterrent because offenders will continue to drive.
The Supreme Court considered three cases: Birchfield v. North Dakota, Bernard v. Minnesota, and Beylund v. North Dakota, in which the offenders argue that imposing minor criminal penalties for withdrawing their implied consent — refusing a warrantless BAC test after arrest — violates their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. Make no mistake, the evidences shows that all three offenders were drunk and behind the wheel. No one denies that much.
The offenders’ argument is two-fold: (1) a BAC test is a search that intrudes one’s bodily integrity, and therefore unreasonable; and (2) the threat of minor criminal sanctions is a punitive form of coercion that disqualifies an offender’s consent. In fact, the offenders argue that all BAC tests require a warrant regardless of circumstance.
Most Supreme Court journalists agree that counsel for both sides of the argument — the offenders and conversely, counsel for North Dakota and Minnesota — struggled to articulate their arguments. In all fairness, unless you're the Deputy Solicitor General, this was probably the first time counsel for both sides argued in the hallowed halls of justice — the Holiest of Holies for lawyers — in front of living legends such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sam Alito, Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas. It was truly an awe inspiring experience.
Since I was a mere observer sitting “bench” and just like any football fan on Monday, I am playing a little arm chair quarterback regarding some “plays” that were not called on fourth and one.
1. The Fourth Amendment protects a citizen from unreasonable search and seizure, not from every search.
In all three cases, the offenders were arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. The arresting officers performed field sobriety tests on the offenders, observed the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, inability to walk a straight lines and in some cases failed the field breath test. The officers had more than probable cause to conduct a search and request a BAC test. The Justices asked why North Dakota or Minnesota could not obtain an “insta-warrant” over the telephone, similar to Wyoming which can obtain a warrant within five minutes.
Practically speaking, at what point does an “insta-warrant” just become a perfunctory exercise? If an officer can call a magistrate and get a warrant in less than five minutes, then obviously the magistrate has full faith and credit that the officer had probable cause and is merely making sure that the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. The idea that the magistrate serves a neutral body, especially when a warrant can be obtained over the telephone in less than five minutes, is an antiquated model that does not practically translate in today's on-demand world. In other words, the “insta-warrant” has merely become a superficial hoop that law enforcement is obliged to jump through for show.
2. The State’s compelling interest to protect the safety of its citizens far outweighs any minimal right to privacy of the offender.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court acknowledged that drunk driving is a serious public safety threat. Challenge after challenge, the Supreme Court reminds the public, “The increasing slaughter on our highways [caused by drunk driving], most of which should be avoidable, now reaches the astounding figures only heard of on the battlefield.” Counsel for the offenders did not dispute the tragedy of drunk driving fatalities, but argued that individual privacy was more important than saving lives.
Justice Kennedy responded, “Innocent lives are at stake, why can't we just say that this falls within the special-needs exception.” It should be undisputed that States and the Federal government have a moral obligation to stop the “slaughter on our highways,” and that this serves as a special needs exception to the general warrant requirement. Justice Alito broke it down to brass tax by stating the minor privacy inconvenience is not what’s being disputed but rather, “The real gripe with the test is that they just don't want their blood-alcohol levels tested.”
3. In the history of jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has never drawn an absolute line in the sand regarding the Fourth Amendment and should not do so now.
MADD argues in its Amicus that the Supreme Court has never required a per se ban on all criminal penalties when it comes to the Fourth Amendment. In fact the Supreme Court has uniformly rejected such categorical rules in favor of a case-by-case analysis based on the totality of the circumstances. And although neither the offenders’ nor the States’ briefs address the distinction between a breath test and a blood draw, the Justices spent a considerable amount of time asking counsel on both sides about the practical difference.
Justice Breyer asked, “And I don’t find this very much in the briefs, and it surprises me… Why isn’t there a big difference between a blood test and a Breathalyzer?”
Justice Kagan added, “This [breath test] is about as uninvasive as a search can possibly be.” While this may seem a promising line of questioning regarding breath tests, the opposite holds true for a blood draw. Justice Kagan continued, “There’s something very different in the level of invasion [between a breath test and a blood draw], and certainly it’s appropriate to look at the invasiveness of a search when deciding whether to do a search incident to arrest.” Unfortunately, counsel for both States’ response to such distinction fell short.
The Deputy Solicitor General tried to save this argument by emphasizing the importance of a blood draw when it comes to drugged driving, but was cut off by Justice Breyer saying that a warrant could be obtained in the time it takes to transfer the offender to the hospital for testing.
While I am not Carnac the Magnificent, I predict the Supreme Court will determine that a warrantless breath test survives constitutional muster as a search incident to arrest. However, and in light of the Missouri v. McNeely opinion two years ago and the statements made by the Justices, a warrantless blood draw may be another matter.
With the recent passing of Justice Scalia, a 4-4 decision would uphold the lower State Supreme Courts’ rulings and serve as a temporary victory. Therefore, MADD’s fight to eliminate drunk driving is far from over. We must continue to wage our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving in the courts, in the Capitol buildings and in the hearts and minds of every American.
By Kathy Kilgore Beeler
When one of my family members calls someone a “Cole,” it means something special.
It’s family shorthand for calling someone Compassionate, Obedient to God, Loving and Enthusiastic toward life – all such core personality traits of my handsome son Cole, who was killed while riding with a drinking driver.
Cole Hansen Kilgore was my little stinker, my only child. He was charismatic, fun-loving and always kept me on my toes. He had a sense of humor that charmed everyone around him. He was a city boy who lived in the country, so he knew how to both skateboard and skeet shoot. He was compassionate, and always tried to take care of me, even when it wasn’t his responsibility. Most importantly, he was the only person who called me “Momma.”
People gravitated towards Cole. He simply pulled people into his stratosphere, and you felt lucky to be there with him.
Cole wasn’t a perfect child. He was perfect to me, but Cole had his struggles with underage drinking and drugs. When I found out, I talked to him and moved him to a new city to be around new friends; we worked together to turn his life around. I remember speaking with him about the dangers of alcohol when he was 12 or 13 years old. I wish I had spoken to him sooner, but I never imagined alcohol would be on his radar at such an early age.
When Cole turned 19, I could tell that he was really trying to turn his life around. He was looking to start college classes and worked with a construction company in the summer. He never wanted me to worry; he repeatedly told me, “Momma, everything is okay. I’m okay.”
On June 4, 2011, Cole was still living at home, and he shouted out that he was going down the road to visit his friend and would be right back. I told him I loved him, and he yelled it back before driving two miles down the road. Just two miles…
Cole went down to a friend’s house where a group of older guys were sitting outside drinking. Even though Cole was sober, he made the choice to get into a truck with a man who had been drinking. Intoxicated, the driver recklessly drove more than 100 miles per hour before careening into a guardrail, hitting the gas tank on the driver’s side. The truck went up in flames, engulfing the driver and Cole. The driver died at the scene, but my Cole managed to pull himself out of the vehicle.
When I arrived at the hospital I saw my handsome boy with burns covering 95 percent of his body. Cole looked at me and said, “I’m sorry; it was stupid.” He knew that he had broken my heart. “Momma, I’m a burnt chicken,” he joked in typical Cole fashion, trying to make me laugh. His nickname in high school was ‘Chicken Legs.’ My sweet boy was in pain, and was put in a medically induced coma. After being life-flighted to a larger hospital, I said I love you to Cole for the last time.
In my mind, I kept thinking the doctors would save him, that somehow this great miracle would occur, and I could just switch places with him.
But my baby boy with the bluest eyes imaginable took his last breath. We stood by his side, still praying for that miracle that never arrived.
Before Cole passed away, I never thought about joining a group like MADD. That’s exactly what MADD is – a family you never knew you needed – until you suddenly need them desperately.
Today, I try to share my story to prevent this from happening to others.
This April, I’m partnering with MADD in honor of Cole. April 21st is MADD’s PowerTalk 21 Day, the national day for parents to begin ongoing conversations with their children about the dangers of alcohol, and the dangers of riding with a drinking driver. Parents, please use MADD’s Power of Parents tools and have these lifesaving conversations with your children. Download the free materials at madd.org/powertalk21.
Today, we recognize PowerTalk 21®, a day dedicated to inspiring intentional, ongoing, and potentially lifesaving conversations between parents and kids about underage drinking and alcohol. And, boy, do we have plenty to talk about!
When it comes to PowerTalk 21®, the results are ones we can’t see. When parents take the time to show and tell their kids about underage drinking, it prevents the number of underage drinking deaths from climbing higher. And one more death is one too many! That point was visually driven home at the national PowerTalk 21® press conference in Dallas.
National President Colleen Sheehey-Church opened up the conference, sharing how the loss of her son drives her to help other parents avoid her grief.
MADD volunteer Steve Mason touched on the importance of talking with your kids about not riding with a drinking driver when he shared the loss of his 20-year-old son, Chris.
Dr. Robert Turrisi, a groundbreaking researcher into teens and drinking, shared his data detailing how parents can effectively combat the pressures teens face to drink with a simple game of SHOW & TELL during an online virtual Town Hall yesterday and at the press conference. If you missed the virtual Town Hall yesterday, listen to it now. Or watch a brief video where he throws down a challenge - put the lifesaving information available in our Power of Parents handbooks into the hands of 10 million parents.
Here are pictures from the Dallas event, as well as other PowerTalk 21® events across the country.
|MADD CEO Debbie Weir and National President Colleen Sheehey-Church at the national PowerTalk 21® press conference in Dallas.||The set-up for the press conference included pictures of two young men killed by drinking drivers, as well as 101 chairs and graduation caps representing the 101 young people in Texas killed in alcohol-related crashes.|
|The media gearing up for the press conference, one of several held across the country for PowerTalk 21® Day.||Street teams took the PowerTalk 21® literally on their backs to share it with Dallas parents visting Klyde Warren Park.|
|Another street team member shares lifesaving information with a Dallas resident.||Dallas Assistant Chief Gary Tittle and other officers met MADD CEO Debbie Weir and National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. Chief Tittle stressed the department's no tolerance policy for udnerage drinking and adults who provide underage drinkers with alcohol.|
|Former MADD Chairman and Nationwide Insurance Associate Vice President of Consumer Safety Bill Windsor spoke at the Dallas event. PowerTalk 21 is part of the Power of Parents program, sponsored by Nationwide.||Chairs and graduation caps representing the 101 Texas young people killed in alcohol-related crashses last year.|
|In Arizona, 35 Dunkin Donuts locations shared yummy breakfast treats and lifesaving information.||Check out these delicious MADD cupcakes, part of the Arizona celebration.|
|Juno Beach is celebrating PowerTalk 21! The Town Council (Left to Right: Mayor Jason Haselkorn, Council Member Bill Greene, Council Member Ellen Andel, Madd SE FL Program Specialist David Ganim, Vice Mayor Jim Lyons andTown Manager Joe LoBello) recognized PowerTalk 21 with an official proclamation.||Windsor Locks Connecticut, a community that six years ago lost a resident who was a passenger in a single car crash with a drinking driver, declared April 21st officially PowerTalk 21® Day.|
|In Florida, MADD joined the LIVE radio podcast Sober Smash, taking calls from people in Wisconsin to Miami.|
PowerTalk 21® may end today, but the conversations between parents and kids must remain ongoing. Learn valuable strategies and tips to create conversations kids will actually hear by downloading the new parents pocket guide today.
When you do, you will automatically be entered to win an Amazon echo, Kindle Fire HD, or one of two $50 gift cards for a date night. You can earn additional entries by taking one of our new interactive quizzes, too!
The winners will be announced via email and social media after April 30th.
When Hannah Rebekah Morales entered a room, it lit up, not only from her smile and personality, but from her willingness to help and inspire others. She was loved by her parents, family, teammates, friends, coaches, and really anyone she came into contact with. Hannah had a passion for sports ever since her mother could remember. Hannah’s connection to sports allowed her to travel and compete against teams across the country. Her parents found joy in watching their daughter play sports, and spent many hours traveling and cheering her on.
On December 31, 2015, Hannah went to a New Year’s Eve party with a group of friends. There was underage drinking at the party and even though people knew the driver had been drinking, they didn’t stop him from driving. At just 16 years old, Hannah was killed after being ejected from a vehicle driven by a driver with a BAC of .208, more than twice the legal limit. The driver survived the crash. He pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide, and was sentenced to 5 years of probation. Hannah’s parents were devastated by the courts decision, they believe that probation shouldn’t be an option when someone kills someone else in a drunk driving crash. They continue to remain positive in honor of Hannah but would also like to see laws change to reflect the seriousness of the crime.
Hannah had never been in trouble in the past, her parents hadn’t had a reason to worry about what she was doing that night. Anita, Hannah’s mother, wishes she would have spoken to her daughter more about underage drinking, and encourages all parents to talk to their adolescents about the possible consequences. She believes drunk driving is a selfish act that is completely preventable. She hopes that Hannah’s story will prevent others from making the same mistakes and save lives.
This week, MADD shares PowerTalk 21, a day dedicated to creating intention, ongoing, and potentially lifesaving conversations between parents and kids about alochol. Join us to learn valuable strategies for how to talk with your child or teen about not drinking and not riding with a drinking driver.
MADD CEO and parent of two Debbie Weir takes the PowerTalk 21® drinking myths quiz and shares key insights into some dangerous ideas about alcohol and kids. Take the quiz with us to be automatically entered to win an Amazon Echo, Kindle Fire HD, or one of two gift cards for a date night!
If you missed it, last week we learned more about parenting styles and how they influence a child's attitudes toward alcohol. Watch it now!
The Maryland all-offender ignition interlock bill, dubbed Noah’s Law after Officer Noah Leotta, who was killed in December by a suspected repeat drunk driver, unanimously passed both Houses late Monday night, mere moments before the session ended for the year.
This historic piece of legislation, ignored and delayed for years, now heads to the Governor for his signature, which will make Maryland the 26th state in the country to require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders.
Noah Leotta’s parents dove into advocacy efforts, determined to prevent other parents from suffering from this 100% preventable crime. We thank them for their hard work.
We also recognize our tremendous partners in law enforcement, who stand in front of the danger to protect the rest of us, the Maryland legislators, who unanimously passed this lifesaving bill, and you! Your support of ignition interlocks, your letters and emails, your tweets and posts, your donations and volunteer hours – your actions made a real and recognizable difference.
Today, we are safer thanks to you.
Now, after a long-fought battle, it’s not time to stand down. It’s time to step up.
Twenty-four states remain without this critical protection against repeat offenders. That’s where we move our attention, because our mission doesn’t end until drunk driving ends.
Our work continues this year in California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Vermont, where lawmakers can send a strong message that they, too, want to protect their constituents from this horrific and violent crime. If you reside in one of these states, please consider sending a letter to your legislators here.
Join MADD and all people who believe in a future of No More Victims® today. Donate $50 in support of ignition interlocks in all 50 states. If you haven't read our first-of-its-kind, state-by-state Ignition Interlock Report, discover how this technology has already prevented more than 1.77 million drunk driving attempts.
Connect with MADD on Facebook to view more pictures from our efforts to get the Maryland bill enacted.
At MADD, part of our mission is to support and assist those tragically impacted by drunk or drugged driving. Immediately after a crash, victims can feel lost and overwhelmed by grief or injury. We work to help them along their own healing journey. This year, as part of Crime Victims' Rights Week, we have created a virtual Road to Hope.
Road to Hope
The Road to Hope is built one virtual brick at a time. If you have someone to honor, simply fill out a brief form. Be sure to share your name (if you were injured) or the name of your loved one, along with a piece of advice or comfort you recieved that helped you move forward. Your words may help someone who is just a few steps behind you in their healing journey.
We kicked off the campaign Monday, and, already, some truly touching tributes have been shared. Diane Pinkerton's family shared how her family supported her after a crash.
A sentiment others shared, as well...
Other people used their brick almost like a note to a lost loved one, catching them up on how the family continues, depsite the tragic loss.
Shane's family is moving forward by helping others arrive home safely so fewer people suffer the same loss.
And Ashley's family now acts as her voice to tell her story.
While other bricks simply share love.
Keri Anne's family set a lofty goal, one they are working to achieve through social media, legislative advocacy, and participation in a Walk Like MADD event.
Many offered hope...hope for tomorrow...hope for healing...hope for a future with No More Victims®.
Please add your brick to the Road of Hope. The Road to Hope seems long and winding at times, but you are not alone. Join MADD and others in this healing journey, especially as we honor National Crime Victims' Rights Week.
A Tarrant County adult court Judge – for now – gave Ethan Couch the present he deserves for his 19th birthday – the maximum amount of jail time. However, the defense team will have an opportunity in two weeks to plead their case for less or no jail time.
A Judge ordered four separate and consecutive 180 day terms, one for each count that he was convicted of which corresponds to each life lost. This is a small victory – but 720 days in jail is nothing compared to the life sentence the families he impacted face.
North Texas Executive Director Jason Derscheid spoke immediately after the hearing.
However, we’ll never say we ‘won’ this case, because no one ‘wins’ in drunk driving cases. Everybody has already lost. The victims and their families lost the day of the crash three years ago.
Here is Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson speaking about Ethan's disposition in jail, where he is in solitary confinement 23 hours a day.
But the fight is not over. Couch’s defense team will be afforded the opportunity to come back in two weeks to argue against this sentence. Know that we will be there once again, to ensure that everything is being done to ensure justice for these families and for all families who have suffered to this 100% preventable crime.
We want to end by honoring the families who are hurting today by giving them hope and letting them know, you always have a place at MADD.
As they experience grief due to a crash, that grief can be overwhelming and all encompassing. Over time though, people can learn to live with their grief and sometimes grow in ways they never expected or wanted.In our own human journey, we try to find our niche or purpose in life, but sometimes it finds us instead. Crime victims discover things that they were not aware of prior to their victimization and somewhere down that road they may want to take what they have learned and put it to use to help others.
Many victims and survivors want to make sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to anyone else, or that something good comes from what happened to them – this is where a desire to advocate often comes from. Advocacy is speaking out for or about something and can take many forms. Some victims and survivors advocate by participating in Walk Like MADD events, others work with victims and survivors to offer comfort or support, some take on legislative advocacy to try to change laws, and still others speak about their experience as a victim or survivor of a drunk or drugged driving crash.
If you or a loved one have been impacted by a crash and want to advocate, there are many opportunities to make a difference. To get started, you can read about ways to get involved or reach out to your local MADD office.
Thank you for being a part of the solution and for making the world a better place. Please join us this week in building a Road To Hope in honor of Crime Victims' Rights Week. Simply customize a virtual brick by sharing a piece of advice, a kind gestures, or support you received that helped you take a step forward. In this small way, we honor our lost loved ones and the strength it takes for all crime victims to continue their healing journey.
Have you taken the PowerTalk 21® "What's Your Parenting Style" interactive quiz?
Watch along as we take the quiz and discuss how to prevent our kids from drinking underage as part of PowerTalk21®, a day dedicated to inspiring ongoing, intentional, and potentially lifesaving conversations between parents and kids about alcohol. PowerTalk® is part of our Power of Parents program, sponsored by Nationwide.
By taking the new, interactive quiz, you are automatically entered to win an Amazon Echo, Kindle Fire HD, or one of two $50 cards.
Want more entries? That's easy.
Earn another by joining us at the April 20th virtual Town Hall to hear from MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church and groundbreaking researcher Dr. Robert Turrisi, who will share insights from his recent examination into why kids and teen choose to ride with a drinking driver. Plus, if you sign up for our 15-minute virtual workshop, download the new Power of Parents pocket guide, or take another quiz, you'll earn an additional entry for each action on top of gaining valuable, lifesaving strategies to help your child make safe decisions regarding alcohol.
The first Walk Like MADD volunteer training retreat was a resounding success, with walkers from across the country coming together for an intensive, information-packed, team-building day! Those in attendance shared emotional stories about loved ones lost to drunk or drugged driving, explored ways to share the MADD mission, and discussed how to make this year's Walk Like MADD events the best ever.
Check out our videos and images from the day.
Ryan from Sacramento threw out a social media challenge to his followers moments before stepping on a plane to head to Dallas for the retreat. He never expected the response he received.
Patricia shared a "Mission Moment" with the group. A mission moment explains why we are committed to the mission of ending drunk driving on a personal or organizational level.
MADD Senior Vice President of Giving, Marketing & Communications Amy George (center) enjoys lunch with MADD staff and volunteers.
Lisa Spicknall with the Maryland affiliate and Fran Lanzer with the Colorado affiliate take a break from advocating for ignition interlocks for all offenders to attend the Walk training.
|One of the volunteer's artistic efforts - looks marvelous!||Volunteering is hard work. We had to take a lunch break.|
|Attendees shared their personal connection to MADD and why they walk.||MADD North Texas Office Executive Director Jason Derscheid reveals his inner "Superhero."|
Thank you to everyone who attended. Together, we are creating a future of No More Victims®. We have Walks across the country. Please visit www.WalkLikeMADD.org to find one nearyou!
By Steve Mason
As I begin to write my thoughts about becoming a Peer Support Volunteer for MADD, the words to the song Closer To Love by recording artist Mat Kearney come to mind. The song includes these words: "I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees…”
For my family, that phone call came at 2:15 AM May 7, 2005. Our youngest son, Chris, was home from college for a three-day weekend. Three of Chris' friends from college drove to our small town that Friday evening to attend a "campfire party" where many of Chris' friends would be hanging out.
Hours later, the phone rang, and the voice at the other end of the line was very shaky...very distraught...the male voice said "Is this Chris' Dad? You need to come quickly...there's been a crash...Chris is hurt really bad.”
Once we arrived at the crash scene, we quickly discovered what might easily be called a parent’s worst nightmare. Our first glimpse of the crash scene revealed a mangled car resting upside down against a large tree. Next to the car, we saw a motionless body being attended to by EMT's, and we quickly learned it was our 20-year-old son Chris.
Chris was airlifted to a nearby trauma center, where he survived for 17 hours. However, due to the massive injuries sustained in the crash, he died at 6:54 PM, May 7, 2005. We planned his funeral the following day....Mother’s Day, 2005. We learned that two other passengers in the car had been seriously injured, and the 20-year old-driver of the car had been arrested for drunk driving.
Here's the connection between the words to the Mat Kearney song and Chris' death. During the days between his death and his funeral, our grief was overwhelming. For me, the grief caused the neurotransmitters between my brain and my legs to "short circuit.” Without warning, my legs would buckle, and I would literally fall to my knees. I am guessing other victims/survivors have had similar experiences.
In the summer of 2015, a MADD staff member asked if I would be interested in becoming a Peer Support Volunteer. This would be a new volunteer role for me, but I was not new to volunteer work with MADD. For 10 years, I had volunteered as a speaker at Victim Impact Panels, school assemblies, youth conferences, and for other organizations with an interest in preventing and eliminating drunk driving.
Once I learned a bit about the Peer Support training and what the responsibilities included, I quickly agreed to take the required training. Even though it had been ten years since Chris had been killed in an alcohol-related crash, the memories of unimaginable grief, confusion, and guilt were still quite vivid in my mind. Helping others navigate a similar journey is the goal of a Peer Support Volunteer.
Soon after I completed the peer support training, I began receiving the names and contact information for new victims of drunk/drugged driving. With each phone call, I expressed my most sincere condolences...I asked if they were getting emotional support. I asked about their deceased loved one(s). I asked what steps they were taking to find much needed continued support.
Some were understandably confused, uncertain where to turn for help. I let them know MADD would offer additional support via Victim Advocates, and I offered suggestions such as grief counseling and support groups like The Compassionate Friends. I suggested contacting their local United Way, their religious leader or perhaps a local funeral director for additional sources of assistance. I briefly shared my own experience and the struggle my family faced in learning to cope with the loss of a close loved one. I let each victim know there are many hurdles to cross, but they can survive. I let them know that no one should tell them how to grieve or that there is a time limit to grief. I let them know that I care...that MADD cares and will offer additional support.
My volunteer work on behalf of MADD and the victims it serves has been bittersweet. Learning about the needless deaths is heartbreaking, but helping others understand the dangers of drunk/drugged driving and helping others deal with their loss has helped me in my healing process, a journey that has no finish line.
Legislators have been talking about ignition interlocks across the country this session, and MADD couldn't be more pleased to have played a role in pushing this lifesaving technology to the forefront.
With more than 1.77 million drunk driving attempts prevented since such laws began appearing at the state level, we believe this technology is critical to creating a future of No More Victims®. No other program or technology can stop a car from being driven by someone who is drunk. License suspensions don't work – 50 percent to 75 percent of drivers whose licenses are suspended for drunken driving continue to drive anyway. Other programs aimed at rehabilitating offenders do nothing to keep them from driving when attempts to abstain from alcohol fail.
That’s why we’ve made passing ignition interlocks for all offenders in all 50 states a centerpiece of our legislative push this session. Here’s a quick update on what we’ve accomplished together – and how much further we have to go to prevent the loss of another innocent life to this 100% preventable crime.
Before this session, a few powerful politicians staunchly opposed strengthening ignition interlock laws. However, Maryland has taken center stage for the ignition interlock push, following the death of Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta, who lost his life in December allegedly at the hands of a repeat drunk driver.
The measure passed the House earlier this month. The Senate approved “Noah’s Law” earlier this week following unanimous approval of the bill by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Next, it goes to the House/Senate Conference Committee to negotiate a final bill.
California SB 1046
The California Legislature is considering Senate Bill 1046, which would expand the current four-county pilot program statewide. All drunk driving offenders would be required to install the device. Authored by Sen. Jerry Hill, MADD believes this legislation will save lives.
Yesterday and today, we took part in press conferences before the Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously passed the legislation and sent it to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval.
Pennsylvania SB 290
Last week, a bill strengthening the state's ignition interlock law passed out of the House Transportation Committee. Senate Bill 290, already approved by the Senate, would require first-time offenders with a .10 blood alcohol concentration or higher to install an ignition interlock for a year. The current law only requires the device after the second (and third and fourth…) offenses.
Next, the House will vote on the bill.
Georgia HB 205
MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church called on the Georgia Governor to support House Bill 205 offering first-time offenders the option of installing an ignition interlock device rather than lose their license. The bill passed on March 24 and is now pending the Governor's signature.
Minnesota HF 1112
Minnesota is currently considering an all-offender ignition interlock law. MADD hosted a press conference last week in support of this lifesaving bill.
Vermont H 560
Vermont is considering a bill, House 560, requiring all first-time offenders to install an ignition interlock device instead of license suspension.
This is an update to a law passed in 2010 offering offenders the option between a 90-day license suspension or installing the lifesaving technology. However, even if an interlock were selected, the offender still had a 30-day license suspension.
The bill passed the House earlier this month, and the Senate is expected to take it up soon.
What can you do?
MADD will continue to push through the end of every session for these bills. Please join us by donating $50 by March 31st to support the efforts to bring interlock laws for all offenders to all 50 states.
From the very beginning of MADD’s history in South Carolina, Laura Hudson and her husband, Bob, have been at the forefront of the state's struggle against drunk driving. Laura's influential career in victims’ rights advocacy in South Carolina spans more than three decades, with a lengthy list of accomplishments to her name. She championed the passage of the state’s first open-container laws, the push to upgrade DUI offenses to a felony from a misdemeanor, and expanding requirements for convicted DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their cars, known as 2014’s “Emma’s Law,” amongst many others.
We are honored to have Bob and Laura as Honorary Chairs at this year's Walk Like MADD Columbia, presented by Molina Healthcare of South Carolina, April 9th.
Bob, originally from North Carolina, and Laura, originally from Texas, moved to South Carolina in 1976, and it was not long after settling into the community that Laura received her first calling to serve. Through a conversation with her neighbor, Laura’s attention was first brought to the burgeoning MADD movement, which at that time was just starting to get national attention by highlighting the tragic death of MADD founder Candace Lightner’s daughter, Cari.
Shortly after this conversation, Laura met with David Jameson at LRADAC, who asked her to participate in the founding of a MADD chapter in South Carolina. Having had a chance to meet Candace Lightner shortly thereafter, Laura began the rigorous process of getting MADD’s mission on track in South Carolina.
The steps required to set up a MADD chapter included such activities as riding along with law enforcement officers, spending time observing prosecutors in court, and interviewing judges. The process was not easy, as many of the people she attempted to persuade to MADD’s cause were resistant to what they saw as outside interference. As Laura puts it, “Our magistrate and municipal courts were not used to having people coming in and asking them anything, and they tried everything they could to keep me out of it.”
At the time, DUI offenses were not treated with anything close to the level of seriousness merited. “It was maybe $200 when you kill somebody in a DUI,” Laura recalls of those times. “It was not elevated to the level that was needed.”
Undeterred by the resistance, Laura became a consistent presence at the South Carolina State House, becoming acquainted with both the legislators personally, as well as the particular challenges of trying to get policy changes enacted by people who were only starting to see the value of cracking down on drunk driving offenses.
She has worked with several governors and considered Senator Strom Thurmond, who lost a daughter to a drunk driver, as a major supporter of MADD’s mission.
MADD SC’s first big success was in getting DUI offenses changed from a misdemeanor to a felony. “It was hard,” she recalls. “People were reluctant to lock people up when they said ‘Well, it’s an accident.’ No, it’s not! It’s not an ‘accident’ at all. You make the decision to drink, you make the decision to drink too much, and you make the decision to get in a vehicle.”
Laura and MADD also were instrumental in changing the state law to the 21 minimum legal drinking age and the .08 BAC standard, both extremely significant events in the reduction of drunk driving deaths.
Laura also expanded her protection of victims to issues beyond drunk driving: general traffic safety, domestic violence, and child welfare to name a few. Through strong support from Bob, Laura has worked a substantial period of her career with no salary. Many have assumed, understandably, that Laura has been a paid MADD staff member before, but everything she has done for the organization has been as a volunteer. She is still an active Board Member and Chair of our Policy Committee today.
Despite having made some monumental changes to the laws, Laura is still not satisfied with the strength of the language in South Carolina’s current DUI laws.
“There are several things that need to be cleaned up,” she says. “One is that we need to have dedicated prosecutors – not highway patrol and law enforcement officers – trying DUI cases.”
Walk Like MADD Columbia is, in part, a celebration of all we have accomplished in 35 years at MADD South Carolina. We also celebrate Laura and Bob Hudson's support our mission to this day, which means that continued victories lay ahead.
MADD Vice Chairman Steven Benvenisti, a personal injury trial lawyer, shares his most life-changing drunk-driving case with more than 5,000 members of the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Fort Worth.
The case involved a college student hit by a repeat offender while on Spring Break. Doctors gave the student little hope for survival, much less a productive life. However, if you want to believe in miracles, just skip to the 35-minute mark.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations often include various shades of green, shamrocks, and light-hearted festivities. However, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the deadliest days for drunk driving.
Don’t let tragedy overshadow the celebration. Arrange for a designated driver if your celebration will include alcohol. It’s a simple step that can save lives. Remember, once you start drinking, you can’t accurately judge your impairment.
If you host a party, you can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you serve ends up in an impaired-driving crash. Offer to let guests sleep on a couch or even the floor, offer Uber codes for discounted rides, or collect keys to keep inebriated guests from recklessly leaving.
Dianne Daniels and her three daughters met up March 17th, 2012 for breakfast, just as they did every Saturday.
After breakfast Dianne, her daughter, Shakeila Vickers, and her grandson Vincent Vickers decided to spend the afternoon at the park. Vincent, who was 9 years old at the time, earned straight A’s and loved to play basketball. On this day, Vincent’s basketball tournament had been cancelled, so he decided to bring his best friend Tyler Biggins with him to the park. The four of them enjoyed a relaxing time together, laughing and taking in the beautiful weather.
Ms. Daniels eventually went back home, while Shakeila, her husband Vince Vickers, and the boys went out for dinner. Later that evening, Ms. Daniels received a call from the hospital stating that Ms. Vickers, her husband, and the two boys were involved in a crash. While on their way back home from dinner, an impaired driver on the drug “spice” rear-ended their truck. Shakeila , her nine-year-old son, and his friend Tyler Biggins died in the crash. Vince Vickers was the only survivor.
Shakeila, pictured with her son, loved to volunteer and serve her community through her warm personality.
“Shakeila was loved by everyone, she had a smile that was very contagious that made everyone around her smile,” said Dianne.
After the crash, Dianne and her family connected with Florida MADD advocate Kristen Allen. Ever since then Ms. Daniels has been sharing her story at Victim Impact Panels.
“I do the things I do because I don’t want any other family to have to go through what I had to go through. I lost two members at one time…..”
Dianne and her family created the Keila & Vincent Memorial Foundation, which provides scholarships to high school students in the memory of Shakeila and Vincent.
At the heart of MADD’s mission is a desire to support and assist the thousands of people who lives are needlessly impacted by the senseless crime of drunk driving. But, as a Walk Like MADD Manager, it is not a part of the mission I frequently come into contact with.
That changed when Shari Marmon decided to walk.
Shari’s daughter Abby and her best friend, Hannah, were killed by an underage drunk driver in Illinois Jan. 10, 2015. Shari wanted to join the Pinellas Walk Like MADD event because Abby’s sister, Alison, lives in Pinellas County, although Shari lives on the east coast of Florida. Before the Walk, Victim Advocates visited the crash site and worked with both Abby and Hannah’s families, assisting them through the court proceedings and helping them secure assistance.
The first time I spoke with Shari it was a very emotional call. Shari shared that she received my voice message at the exact time she needed to hear from someone. She expressed her appreciation for Victim Services, but added that she didn’t feel the therapy was helping her. After all, how could someone who hadn’t lost a child understand her pain?
I knew we needed to support Shari, so I arranged to have MADD’s Central Florida Office provide a peer mention, Amy Voelker. A friendship blossomed, and Shari started to come out of her shell. Abby’s sister Alison also received a peer mentor who inspired Alison to join the Walk Committee next year.
Together, the team “Our Angles Abby and Hannah” raised more than $2,278 – more than double their goal – for MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Their achievement is a direct result of their passion and creativity, especially on social media.
On Shari’s birthday, she asked everyone to donate just $1. Then, on what would have been Hannah’s 21st birthday, they asked everyone to donate $21. For the event itself, the team procured amazing prizes, which they gave away at the team alley booth. The drawing included a 50/50 split between their team and the winning team.
But more than their fundraising, Shari found a lot of healing by participating in Walk Like MADD. Over the course of the months leading up to the walk, I noticed in my conversations with Shari that she started taking on a tone of conviction. Shari used Walk Like MADD to find purpose and as a way to give back. Hannah’s mom, Dawn Porter, flew all the way from Illinois for WLM Pinellas, and I had the honor of crossing the finish line, hand-in-hand with Shari and Dawn.
For WLM Pinellas, I lived MADD’s mission. Not only did this team far surpass their goal, but, by taking a personal approach and getting to know them, we were able to activate the MADD network and provide them the services they really needed to start healing.
Through Shari and many of my other teams, I found a new purpose in my job and why I do what I do every day. Dawn and Shari are looking starting a walk in the area where the crash happened now. This experience has changed both of their lives.
Enough about "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch.
MADD is pleased to share a special message from someone who was personally impacted by the underage drunk driving crash that killed four people and seriously injured others.
Isaiah McLaughlin was attending a high school graduation party for Evan Jennings the night of the crash. He offered to help return chairs and folding tables borrowed from a church with Pastor Brian Jennings. As Isaiah made the trip with 12-year-old Lucas McConnell, the group saw a car on the side of the road. Pastor Jennings jumped out to offer assistance, telling the boys to stay in the car.
The boys watched the tragedy unfold as Ethan Couch, driving nearly 70 miles per hour, crashed into four people and a SUV before hitting Brian Jennings' white pick-up truck. Isaiah was injured in the crash.
Today, Isaiah shares a thank you to the more than 50,000 people who signed MADD's petition requesting Couch's case be moved to the adult court system.