A father grieves the loss of his son on New Year’s Day 2017
By: Greg Estep Wise, Virginia
At approximately 2:20am on January 1, 2017, my 21-year old son, Thomas Estep became a victim. At the same time, I became a victim. His mother, Cheryl, became a victim. All the rest of his family and his friends became victims. All these victims were created by the actions of one selfish and irresponsible individual.
For my family, 2016 had been a good year. New Year’s Eve, which is also my wife, Elizabeth’s birthday, had been a great day. Then on January 1st, life reached up and grabbed us by the throat. Losing a child is an unspeakable pain that few people can understand. There are days when I wonder how the sun rises, how people can even sing, buy groceries, or pay bills. In other words, how can life go on in the face of such sadness. My tears are right there behind everything I am doing. I will repeat, all this was created by one selfish and irresponsible individual who made the choice to drink and then drive.
Thomas wore a lot of hats with me. He was my loving son, farming partner, my confidant, my buddy, and my chauffer to name a few. He picked up a guitar and taught himself how to play. In 2015, he joined our church praise band as the lead guitarist. In 2016, he began playing for an up and coming country singer, Kaitlyn Baker. She and her band played in numerous venues in several states. In 2016, to promote her new music, Kaitlyn and Thomas embarked on three radio tours in 13 states covering more than 10,000 miles.
Thomas and I lived on the same farm, about a mile apart. As I visited with him on New Year’s Eve, we discussed our farm work for the coming week. He told me he and some friends were getting together that night as they had done for several years on New Year’s Eve. I asked him if he would be spending the night away from home and he said no that he wanted to sleep in his own bed. I cautioned him to be careful. His reply, the last words he ever spoke to me was, “yes there will be nuts on the road tonight”.
The next morning, New Year’s Day, I was watching YouTube videos of Kaitlyn and Thomas when Elizabeth said there was a police car pulling into the driveway. It was a Virginia State Trooper bringing the horrible news that would change our lives forever.
At the age of 21, Thomas had life figured out. He was right with God and proud to be an American. He did not believe in material things and was very modest. He was giving with his money and time to many people. He knew to be truly happy in life, you had to enjoy your vocation. He loved farming and music and knew his hard work would provide for him. His legacy and love of music will live on forever.
When someone plans their holiday outings or at any other time, I am begging them to please be responsible if they drink. I do not want anyone else to be a victim of this 100% preventable violent crime. We should all be thankful for MADD’s hard work to eliminate drunk and impaired driving so there are no more victims!
I am not alone in my work to help with this mission. God and Thomas are with me every step of the way. I would like to close with Thomas’ favorite Bible verse. John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Thomas did that very thing. Thank you for listening to his story.
“You make a positive difference in ways you never really understand”
Jim Camp, JD
MADD State Advisory Board Chair, TN,
MADD National Law Enforcement Committee
Pres. Dynamic Messages LLC (Training and Consulting)
Ret. Elected District Attorney WI, Ret. Assistant District Attorney General & Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor TN
In today’s politicized law enforcement environment, you hear elected officials calling for the defunding of police. A number of folks have even suggested that officers hand over the duty of traffic enforcement to municipal workers. You have heard senseless arguments that a suspected impaired driver asleep in a fast-food drive-through is not dangerous and should not be approached by law enforcement. All of this can make you want to quit. It is no shock then to see officer retirement numbers rising around the country and with it a rise in deaths due to impaired driving.
In times like these those of you in law enforcement and prosecution need to take stock and remember that your calling allows you to do something few other beings ever get a chance to do. You have the opportunity to serve, to help, to change, to save and to touch the lives of those with whom you share this at times not so common existence. Despite what uninformed others may say you DO make a positive difference!
You make a positive difference in ways you never really understand and seldom think of. Like every time you assist a grieving mother through the painful court process as she struggles to make sense of the loss of her only son to a selfish drug and alcohol impaired driver. You make a positive difference every time you are the focus of an angry and irrational father who’s entire family has been violently removed from his life and who can’t understand why the court system allows the idiot who killed them to be out on the street and still driving a car. You even make a positive difference when you stand respectful yet tall and proud while a misguided citizen takes out their frustrations on you for doing the right thing.
But there is one other thing to remember. A very big thing.
Every time you take an impaired driver off the road you are preventing a homicide, because every impaired driving case is a potential homicide.
It is here that you must stop and take stock. You must look to those who would otherwise have perished on our highways if not for the work you have done and continue to do. You must also look to those who would otherwise have grieved but for you. You do what few others have the courage, the strength, the knowledge, or skill to ever hope to do. You have the opportunity to make a positive difference and prevent tragedy. You save lives. You do God’s work. Very few others can make that claim.
Sergeant Vincent Turocy has been a trooper for the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) since 2000. He became a certified Drug Recognition Expert in 2008. He has received numerous traffic enforcement awards throughout his 20-year career to include the THP Trooper of the Year in 2013, the Top Ten DUI Enforcer awards in 2012 (#1) and in 2013 (#4). He received the MADD Hero Award in 2013, the MADD Silver Enforcement Award in 2014, and the MADD Bronze Enforcement Award in 2015. In 2017, he received the MADD Tennessee State Director’s Choice Award.
Sergeant Turocy has served as the MADD Tennessee State Advisory Board Law Enforcement Committee Chair since 2015 and plays an integral role in helping plan, organize, and emcee MADD’s annual Statewide Night of Remembrance and Awards Ceremony which began in 2015. It now sees annual attendance of over 400 victims and law enforcement personnel. In addition, he also captained the THP Middle Tennessee Law Enforcement Walk team from 2015 – 2018.
He forfeited his role as Walk Captain in 2019 when he was out on medical leave for 10 months after he was hit in January 2019 by a drunk driver while on duty in Nashville. The driver’s BAC was .191%. She hit Sergeant Turocy while he was parked on the side of the road working radar speed enforcement. He returned to work in October 2019 and again, resumed his involvement in the Statewide Night of Remembrance and Awards Ceremony.
He was the top fundraiser for the Middle Tennessee Walk in 2018. The THP Walk team that he captained was the Top Law Enforcement Team Fundraiser in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Under a new team captain, the THP Team won again in 2019, walking in honor of Sergeant Turocy after he was hit by the drunk driver earlier in the year.
MADD National is honored and proud to select Sergeant Vincent Turocy as its October 2020 Officer of the Month. Special thanks to MADD Tennessee and Michelle Rozell, Marketing Program Specialist, for nominating him.
Strong drunk driving laws are key to saving lives. That is why we’re so grateful to our legislative partners who have championed MADD’s mission to end the No. 1 killer on our nation’s roads. It is why, each year, we honor lawmakers whose outstanding work has put us closer to a future of No More Victims.
These are MADD’s 2019 legislative heroes in Congress:
The RIDE and HALT Acts introduced in 2019 would require alcohol detection technology in all new vehicles.
Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan introduced legislation to require drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles days after the Jan. 6, 2019 drunk driving crash claimed the lives of an entire Northville family. Dingell proposed a more wide-ranging measure in September. The Honoring the Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate (HALT) Drunk Driving Act requires federal regulatory action by 2024 to install drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles. The HALT Act is named for the five members of the Abbas family killed in this unthinkable tragedy: Issam and Rima Abbas and their three children, Ali, 13, Isabella, 12, and Giselle, 7. Thanks to Rep. Dingell’s leadership and tenacity on this issue, there is now momentum behind taking action to require life-saving systems in all vehicles.
MADD meets with Rep. Nita Lowey, a 2019 MADD legislative champion for her work to end drunk driving.
Representative Nita Lowey of New York has worked for decades to end the 100 percent preventable crime of drunk driving. Throughout her career, she has been a genuine force in this ongoing fight, including championing the successful effort to establish a national standard of .08 BAC, which has saved thousands of lives. Recently, Rep. Lowey proposed legislation to encourage more states to pass laws requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. Thirty-four states, including New York, currently have these laws, which have prevented more than 3 million attempts to drive drunk in the last 12 years. Additionally, through her position as Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Lowey has worked to accelerate the development of in-vehicle technologies to prevent a drunk driver from operating a vehicle.
Senator Rick Scott of Florida introduced a bipartisan measure in October that could ultimately end drunk driving in America. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act by Sens. Scott and Tom Udall of New Mexico would require the installation of passive advanced drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles within four years. This technology would prevent a drunk driver from operating a vehicle and save 7,000 lives a year. Sen. Scott is also a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which is responsible for motor vehicle and highway safety programs and legislation. He has quickly emerged as a national legislative leader in the fight to eliminate drunk driving.
MADD has recognized Rep. Jan Schakowsky for a lifetime of work to end drunk driving.
Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois chaired a March 2019 hearing of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee that focused on the government-auto industry research program supported primarily by government funds for more than a decade. At that hearing, MADD National President Helen Witty challenged the auto industry to move drunk driving prevention technology development out of the research labs and make it available to consumers as soon as possible, where it could save as many as 7,000 lives a year. Rep. Schakowsky is committed to motor vehicle safety and a true advocate in the fight to end drunk driving.
Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico has consistently taken a leadership role in the fight to reduce drunk driving, including leading efforts to provide funding for a research program to develop a passive system for preventing a drunk driver from operating a vehicle. Now Senator Udall is working with Senator Scott of Florida on bipartisan legislation that would take the results of that research out of the laboratory and make the technology standard equipment in all new vehicles, like many other life-saving safety systems. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act has the potential to save 7,000 lives a year and will add to Senator Udall’s legacy of advancing meaningful measures to save lives and prevent injuries.
🚨BREAKING NEWS🚨: “@MADDOnline supports Yes on Prop 22 because it will save lives. Rideshare services help keep drunk and drug impaired drivers off of our roads by providing a convenient, reliable, and affordable alternative to driving.” Helen Witty – MADD National President pic.twitter.com/DxdtftgwkH
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The State of Recruitment: A Crisis for Law Enforcement
Law enforcement agencies across the United States are struggling to recruit and hire police officers. Though agency-specific needs exist depending on size or locale, the difficulty with recruitment is a significant problem that is broadly affecting the field of law enforcement. This IACP resource provides an overview of recruitment by the numbers, discusses the factors driving the recruitment crisis and the impact on the profession, and identifies innovative approaches to recruitment. View the resource here.
MADD’s recently released Marijuana Survey Report on
Misconceptions about Marijuana Consumption and Driving
MADD’s 2020 Court Monitoring Report was recently released and can be found at this link. Of interest, nationally, the conviction rate is only 59% in the 15 states where MADD currently has court monitors. The report also lists state by state reports.
MADD National Law Enforcement Impaired Driving Summit Final Report
In November of 2018, MADD hosted a National Law Enforcement Impaired Driving Summit. Executive level law enforcement officers attended and discussed and identified barriers to strong impaired driving enforcement. This link will take you to the final report for the Summit which identifies those barriers and offers solutions to improve enforcement.