Last month, one of my first official trips as MADD National President took me to Capitol Hill, where I had the opportunity to stand with our partners at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety as they released their 2019 Roadmap report. Each year, Advocates gives every state a green, yellow or red rating based on their adoption of 16 key safety laws, including ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders.
I was appalled – but not surprised – to learn that my home state of Florida is among 11 states with a red rating, meaning they lag dangerously behind when it comes to adopting Advocates’ recommended laws. Also on the red list: South Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Vermont and Virginia.
I was proud to join a panel of people from across the country who are dedicated to adopting commonsense, lifesaving laws, and to stand alongside Cathy Chase, president of Advocates, as I shared MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, our very own roadmap.
I ended my third week as national president by joining bill sponsors in Maryland as they introduced a law making ignition interlocks mandatory for anyone arrested for drunk driving. I was honored to join the MADD Maryland team, led by Executive Direct
or Lisa Spicknall, and to meet Rich Leotta, the father of Officer Noah Leotta, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2015. Along
with former MADD National President Jan Withers, former MADD CEO Chuck Hurley and current National Board Member Joe Sikes, they have been unrelenting in their efforts to pass tougher state drunk driving laws.
I am still trying to get used to my new title, to representing the victims we serve on a national level. In Maryland, I listened to the stories of mothers and fathers and friends fresh with grief. I saw the photographs of their loved ones stolen by this senseless crime.
I saw myself in them.
It is my greatest hope that I can offer those impacted by drunk driving the same comfort MADD gave me in the darkest days of my journey. That they can look at me and know that while the pain never goes away, it won’t always hurt so much. That together, we can honor those we lost by making sure it never happens again.