MADD RecruitingFour victim advocates seek more Inland volunteers
10:00 PM PDT on Saturday, May 26, 2007
Angela Harris is one of four Mothers Against Drunk Driving volunteer victim advocates in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. She goes to court with families to lend moral support and helps them prepare statements that tell the judge how the drug- or alcohol-related crash has affected the families.
The four advocates serve an estimated 4 million people in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It is not enough, said Harris, of Moreno Valley.
Harris, 42, is trying to rally support for MADD in an effort to get more volunteers, especially advocates who have time on weekdays to be in a courtroom with families. She hands out brochures to people she meets that explain the penalties of driving while impaired. She gives them red ribbons with the MADD logo to tie on their car-radio antennas.
"Volunteers range from court monitors to event speakers to grant writers and fundraisers," Harris said. "You don't have to be a victim to be a volunteer. Don't wait to be a victim."
Harris also tells people about a MADD-awareness billboard, in hopes of raising funds to put up the sign. It will picture her 2-year-old granddaughter, Emani De'Shazer, holding a banner that reads: "A drunk driver killed my father."
Emani became fatherless in 2005 when a drunken driver killed Harris' son, Michael De'Shazer, in Rancho Cucamonga as he was riding his motorcycle to work.
MADD's San Bernardino chapter is also contributing to the billboard, which is estimated to cost about $6,000, said Virginia Gautier, executive director.
Gautier started the San Bernardino chapter 22 years ago. The Riverside chapter folded in 2005. Volunteers from both counties are now working to form an Inland Empire affiliate, Gautier said.
Harris takes a poster-size prototype of the billboard with her everywhere she goes. On May 11, Harris held up the poster as she stood on the side of the road near a police traffic sobriety checkpoint in Moreno Valley. She said she wanted the people driving through the checkpoint to understand why they should not drink and drive.
She was joined by MADD volunteers Joseph Alarcon, of Fontana, and Cheryl Acosta, of Moreno Valley.
Alarcon, 29, brought a display with photos of some of the victims whose families have been helped by MADD. The display included a picture of his 18-year-old niece, Amber Rose Martinez, who was killed by a Hemet woman driving under the influence of drugs.
Alarcon also displayed a picture of himself. He was 12 when the car he was riding in was hit by a drunken driver. He bears scars from the injury on his face, but the worse part is the nightmares that still wake him up at night, he said.
Acosta's only child, Christopher Carroll, was 16 in 2002 when a Moreno Valley woman killed him as he was riding his bicycle. The woman, who had a history of drunken driving, had a suspended license when she struck Christopher.
Moreno Valley police Sgt. Ernie Baker was glad to have the MADD volunteers at the checkpoint on Alessandro Boulevard, where nine people were arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and two others were arrested on suspicion of felony drug possession.
"What they do is bring a face to the message and make it personal," Baker said. "It's tragic whenever someone loses a life. ... Sometimes they (impaired drivers) don't kill. Sometimes they maim. Sometimes they cripple. It affects not only the victims, but the families, too."
MADD incorporated in 1980 when two mothers, Candace Lightner, of Fair Oaks, Calif., and Cindi Lamb, of Maryland, joined forces to fight back against drunken driving.
Lightner's 13-year-old daughter Cari was killed by a drunken driver as she was walking to a church carnival. It was the driver's fifth drunken-driving offense.
Lamb and her 5-month-old daughter, Laura, were hit by a drunken driver in 1979. It was that driver's fifth offense as well. Laura became the nation's youngest quadriplegic. She died from complications at age 7, according the MADD Web site.
In addition to helping victims and their families and educating people on the dangers of impaired driving, MADD volunteers are working to change laws concerning driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
In 2000, MADD pushed government leaders to pass a federal law lowering the legal blood alcohol-concentration level to .08 percent or face the withholding of highway construction funds.
Now, MADD is pushing for ignition interlock systems on the cars of all convicted drunken drivers. The lock would not allow drivers to start their car until they register under the legal blood-alcohol limit by breathing into the system. Currently, New Mexico is the only state with a mandatory ignition interlock law, according to the MADD Web site.
Locally, MADD volunteers are trying to convince judges to send first-time drunken-driving offenders to MADD classes.
Some people wrongly equate MADD with prohibitionists who want to ban alcohol. But the organization does not try to stop people from drinking, Gautier said.
"We're here to help the victims. What you drink, where you drink, how you drink is none of our business. It becomes our business when you get behind the wheel," Gautier said.
Reach Melissa Eiselein at 951-567-2409 or meiselein@PE.com
BS Ranch Perspective:
The Drunk Driving Giant is loosing members in the Inland Empire? That really surprises me, because there was many MADD Banquettes, Held each year around Christmas time to Celebrate how many DUI Arrests had been made by the Law Enforcement in the Inland Empire. In fact somebody from MADD can correct me, but I believe that it is Sergent Don Lewis that holds the most Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs or a Combination of the two. DB Lewis & I worked together back when he got that record in that year, it was previous to 1997, unless someone had broke the record since then. Well, this isn't the reason for my typing this out (Sgt. D.B. Lewis's DUI Arrest Record) so I will get back on subject before you loose interest and drop from my BLOG.
I am at a loss that there is a loss of people Woman, or Mom's that are not Signed up for Mother's Against Drunk Drivers. It is just Strange that they would loose people at this time. You see that there has been a decline in Arrests over all, and because of the decline there has been a lack of serious accidents over all. Over all the lack of accidents has caused Mom's to not have as much interest in the MADD organisation. With the, drop of Press related accidents from drunk drivers, which used to be weekly, and in some area's they were happening during the week, depending on how the demographics of the area was.
Now what I am saying here is my opinion, and isn't a reflection on some test, I just hear about a DUI Related accident every now and again, and the person that is injured or Killed in those accidents lately have been the driver of the DUI Car. I know this is the wrong way to look at it, and the right way is to say that everyone should sign up, but with the DUI Arrest is beginning to become a larger and larger crime for the person that is arrested. They loose their license for a long time and it cost a great deal to get it back, they have to pay a super large penalty for the crime, plus jail time. The arrested party now carries their arrest on their license for ten years and that includes the extra payments to their insurance that they have to pay for the ten years because of the ten year record that they have to have on their license.
MADD has done all that great work and I know that they want to do more. There still is DUI Drivers on the road Every Day, and they will probably always be drunk drivers on the road as long as they sell alcoholic beverages, and Alcoholism is a Disease. There are a lot of walking talking Alcoholics walking around whom are drunk without being detected. However they will crash and when they do, I hope that a child is not on the street in front of them. MADD will be back with a strong membership, especially if it happens here in the Inland Empire. I pray that this doesn't happen.
In a way I am happy that the Inland Empire's Chapter of the MADD group is low on Membership, it shows that the things that they have been fighting for has been working, and MADD has done a great deal of great work, and lowered the Amount of DUI's on the Road. For this I am happy.