Connecticut red ribbon campaign launched by MADD

1060-Connecticut State Police MIDDLETOWN – The holiday season works as a reminder of the sorrow for Skip Church and Colleen Sheehey. In 2004, their son, Dustin Church, was killed in an accident in which alcohol was involved.

Sheehey said, “I had no chance to say goodbye. I couldn’t be there and hold his hand and that is something I’ll regret the rest of my life”.

The parents of Dustin said that when he and his friends planned a night out in July evening, they didn’t designate a sober driver. The group of friends seated in the vehicle with a driver who was intoxicated. They were travelling 75 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone when the vehicle got out of control and flipped over, hit the signs and trees then fell into the Housatonic River. Dustin drowned and the other passengers were too much under the influence to help save him.

Dustin’s parents want to tell every person the importance of a designated driver if he/she is under the influence. Sheehey said, “We’re about to enter the most memorable time of the year, and it’s also the most deadly”.

According to officials, the number of individuals who died due to alcohol-impaired driving accidents was 10,000 in 2012. It was a 4.6% increase from 2011.

Drunk driving accidents and fatalities are known to increase over the holidays.

Sixty six individuals died nationwide in drunk driving accidents alone on New Year’s Day in 2011. It was a 144% increase over an average day.

Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said, “No family member wants to have someone in uniform knock on their door and tell them that their loved one is not coming home because of a drunk driver. We’re pleading with the public to become part of the solution. Make Connecticut an example for the entire country”.

Thomas Maziarz of the state Department of Transportation said that there are almost 300 deaths a year and 40% of those are linked to driving under the influence. “What most people don’t understand is the magnitude of the issue in Connecticut”.

Connecticut Mothers Against Drunk Driving Executive Director Janice Heggie Margolis said fatalities linked to driving while intoxicated have increased for the first time in six years. She said, “Every day, 28 people die in America as a result of drunk driving. Eighty-five people were killed in Connecticut in 2012”.

Seventy three percent of adults surveyed said that they had been at an event and seen someone attempt to drive home after drinking too much alcohol showed a survey by MADD. 19 percent of the individuals responding to the survey said they did nothing about it.

State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner, Melody Currey said, “Cars are 1,000-pound weapons when it comes to drunk driving. You have a weapon in your hands”. Currey also wanted to remind parents to discuss with young drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence. “We have zero tolerance for underage drunk drivers,” said Curry.

State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-13 said, “As a mother and a wife of a police officer, I ask all to pay attention to your own habits and others. Call in erratic drivers. You don’t want to have had the opportunity to save someone’s life and not taken it”. Bartolomeo also reminded the people about 5-year-old Tatiana and 8-year-old Lorenzo Cruz of Meriden, who were killed after an alleged drunk driver struck the vehicle they were in. “They did nothing wrong. Their deaths absolutely shook the community to the core”.

Vance said, “We want people to talk about the problem. Talk about the tragedies”.

MADD has helped bring about a bill requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices in vehicles of repeat offenders. An ignition interlock device requires the driver to breathe into it to give a sample for test before being able to start the engine.

Church said, “They’re the only thing to make a difference using technology. We have full confidence a bill will be introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate to require them for all offenders [of drunk driving]”.

To start the Tie One On For Safety campaign and to increase awareness, MADD has made a team with the Office of Highway Safety and the Department of Transportation. The campaign includes red ribbons tied to vehicles to remind every person to designate a sober driver prior to going out. Officials said that the ribbons also indicate the favor for law enforcement officers who are taking part in Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

Heggie Margolis said, “Designate a designated driver before leaving home”.

Being firm but not confrontational when talking with people under the influence trying to drive is suggested by the officials.

Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara, on behalf of the Connecticut Police Chief’s Association said, “The time to make the choice not to drink and drive is now. Take the pledge now”.

Calling a cab, a family member or a friend is recommended by Gabriel Cano, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Region 1 deputy director. Cano said, “We want to make sure everyone has a safe holiday. Drive sober or get pulled over”.

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