As I look back at 2016, I realize I learned one very important lesson as the National President of MADD… getting ahead of the story makes all the difference in the world.
That was evident at the beginning of the year as the Ethan Couch drama swirled. Couch is the “Affluenza Teen” who killed four people, injured many and paralyzed another for life in a drunk driving crash in Texas. At 16-years-old, three times the legal limit of alcohol and with marijuana in his system, he destroyed lives and families forever. He received no jail time for his crime.
As the nation watched Couch’s blatant disregard for the law by fleeing to Mexico, they also watched you and MADD seize the opportunity to right the wrong. While I was in the media spotlight each day to explain our position, you were signing a petition created by MADD to change the outcome. The petition generated more than 50,000 signatures – 30,000 within 24 hours!
In less than 10 hours after sharing my open letter advocating for “Affluenza” teen Ethan Couch to serve 720 days in jail, the judge reaffirmed the adult probation terms and Couch received the sentence. While a woefully short sentence, it was the maximum that Texas law would allow at that point. However, Couch’s probation will expose him to the possibility of 40 years imprisonment in the future.
I saw a similar impact when MADD got involved in the Dylan Meyer drunk driving fatality case in Missouri. Another petition and my highly publicized letter to the judge helped put Meyer in prison on a 10-year sentence. I’ve also seen how getting ahead of the story has helped establish important legislation such as Noah’s law in Maryland and Annie’s Law in Ohio.
MADD’s voice is being heard. Your voice is being heard. And bringing our voices together, early and often, can create change.
So, don’t stop advocating for better laws.
Don’t stop remembering the victims, and don’t stop telling offenders that their excuses don’t work any longer.
Together, we can create a world where there are NO MORE VICTIMS®.