MADD panels aim to halt drunk driving

thisisatestJohn Scarffe, Denver.   Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) presented a Victim Impact Panel at Brentwood United Methodist Church in Denver on March 28, 2016. MADD is a nonprofit organization in the United States and Canada. The organization seeks to stop drunk driving and support those affected by drunk driving.

MADD charges $25 each to attend the panel for those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWAI). Members of the public, non-offenders, pay $15 each. Only money orders are accepted.

Rev. Tan Nguyen, senior pastor at Brentwood United Methodist Church, said the church does not charge a fee to MADD, but will receive donations from the organization if it is able.

MADD promotes the use of victim impact panels (VIPs), in which judges require DWI offenders to hear victims or relatives of victims of drunk driving crashes relate their experiences. MADD received $5,547,693 in 2010 from VIPs.

Much of this income was voluntary donations by those attending, as some states do not allow a fee to be charged to offenders for non-legislative programs. Other states like Colorado, California and Georgia require that a fee be paid in order to attend.

Slated to begin at 6 p.m., the victim panel at Brentwood UMC started with a registration at the front door of the sanctuary. Inside a screen displayed revolving photographs of drunk driving victims.

About 45 attendees were present at 6:05 p.m. while others crowded at the door. By 6:30 p.m., more than 200 people filled the pews. At 6:45 p.m., those seated were told that the sanctuary doors would be locked at 7 p.m. and were advised to use the restroom before then.

Police Officer Kyle Dameron stood by the door. When asked what would happen when the doors were locked in case of a security risk, Dameron responded, “Well, the doors won’t really be locked. I’m the security risk.” He didn’t mention what might happen in the event of a fire or other emergency.

At 7 p.m. event organizer Lindsay Nicolson addressed the group. “Our volunteers graciously give up their time to talk with you. It’s not easy for them to talk with you.”

Nicholson explained that they charge $20 to replace the form offenders received at the door. Offenders must give a copy of the form to their probation officer as proof of attendance and keep one copy for themselves.

“MADD helps victims of violent crimes,” Nicholson said. “You could be driving down the road tonight and get hit. If you have negative feelings, place them aside until you leave here.

“MADD is not prohibitionist but against those who drink and drive. We’re the mothers and sisters of victims. Our purpose is to show you the other side. The worst thing that happened to you is that you got caught. After tonight, you’ll have a different perspective.”

Nicholson introduced Vicky Hayes, aunt of victim Ashleigh Marie Hayes, who was 14 years old when she was killed in a car driven by a drunken driver. Ashleigh’s nickname was Boo, and Vicky said she was very loving and always hugged everyone she encountered.

Boo was involved in basketball, track and soccer, but she was particularly good at music. Before graduating into high school, she was given a band uniform by the High School instructor so she could play with the band she loved. She had also told the family that, since she was going into high school, it was time to get a nose ring.

On July 7, 2003, Vicky received a call from Ashleigh’s father, who said, “We lost Boo.” Boo had been riding in an SUV on East Smoky Hill Road in Aurora.
The vehicle went off the road and flipped end over end five times. Boo was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the rear window.

According to a newspaper article Vicky presented, the vehicle was driven by 28-year-old Kenneth Hayes, the victim’s uncle. Alcohol was a factor in the accident and charges were pending.

After the accident, Vicky and Boo’s mother, Joyce, visited the crash scene. They saw lots of blood on the road, and personal belongings were scattered about. They read the autopsy report, and it was in brutal detail.

Ashleigh’s funeral services were on July 21, 2003. After the services, Joyce could no longer stand living in Aurora. “Every basketball rim I see reminds me of her,” Joyce said.

The family then moved to Washington, D.C. A couple of years later, Joyce died of a heart attack.

At the end of her speech, Vicky said she would be standing outside the door and asked the attendees to give her money for MADD. “Dig a little deeper,” she entreated.

She then introduced Kenneth A. Hayes, the driver of the vehicle. “I’m not doing this for probation,” Ken said. “I’m not getting paid. My niece, I killed drinking and driving.”

Ken explained that he was at a house party and Ashleigh was begging for a ride. Previously she had said that Uncle Kenny was going to teach her how to drive.

He finally gave in and they got into his SUV. “The only thing I’m sure of is I was drunk and the car went off the road,” Ken said. “I crawled through the grass asking for Ashleigh. I’m still in that nightmare.”

In addition to the charges against Ken, the lady who threw the house party faced charges including endangerment of a child, child abuse, and child negligence. Ken said he still struggles with injuries and emotions from the accident.

That night was the last time he had a drink. He has gone to Alcoholics Anonymous and been back to church. He is taking responsibility for what he did. “I did this. I just don’t want to hurt anybody.”

Vicky added that no one does this on purpose. “When you did what brought you here, you didn’t do it on purpose. You have to come to grips with the fact that you drink.”

Officer Kyle Dameron served for 19 years on the Denver Police Department working from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. He presented a slide show of accidents he investigated. Two of the many her presented follow.

At 56th and Havana, Dameron found skid marks from a vehicle, a crushed car, clothes and hair. “If you have a kid in the car, you will automatically be charged with child abuse.” The responsible adult will also have to deal with Social Services.

On November 2001, he investigated a DUI rollover crash at I-25 north of I-70. The driver was so intoxicated he thought he was on Highway 225.

In October 2007 at 9:45 p.m., he investigated an accident at 15th and Arapahoe. A mother, son, and daughter were all killed. The evidence was scattered over an area two blocks long, and the baby stroller had made contact with the vehicle.

At the time the family started to cross the street with a green light, the driver was one block away. The driver left a license plate, so they discovered he was from Thornton

“I hate to see innocent people get hurt,” Dameron said.

Candace (Candy) Lightner organized and founded MADD. On May 3, 1980, Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunken hit-and-run driver at Sunset and New York Avenues in Fair Oaks, California.

The 46-year-old driver, who had recently been arrested for another DUI hit-and-run, left her body at the scene. A 1983 television movie about Lightner resulted in publicity for the group, which grew rapidly.

On September 5, 1980, MADD was incorporated, according to the MADD website. The mission, as stated in its Articles of Incorporation, was: “To aid the victims of crimes performed by individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to aid the families of such victims and to increase public awareness of the problem of drinking and drugged driving.”

In the early 1980s, the group attracted the attention of the United States Congress. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) did not like the fact that youth in New Jersey could easily travel to New York to purchase alcoholic beverages, circumventing New Jersey’s law restricting consumption to those 21 years old and over, according to Wikipedia.

The group had its greatest success with the enacting of a 1984 federal law, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which introduced a federal fine for states that didn’t raise the minimum legal age for the purchase and possession of alcohol to 21, according to the MADD website. After the United States Supreme Court upheld the law in the 1987 case of South Dakota v. Dole, every state and the District of Columbia made the necessary adjustments by 1988 (but not the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam).

In 1985, Lightner objected to the shifting focus of MADD and left her position with the organization. David J. Hanson, Ph.D., wrote: “The founding president of MADD, Candy Lightner, left in disgust from the organization that she herself created because of its change in goals. “‘It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned,’ she said. ‘I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.’”

A rumor circulated that MADD’s founder has been arrested three times for drunk driving. Is this true? MADD answers: “No. MADD’s founder has never been arrested for drunk driving.”

Radley Balko, an advocate for decriminalizing drunk driving and a writer for Reason Magazine, argued in a December 2002 article that MADD’s policies are becoming overbearing. He gives MADD credit for raising awareness of the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

“But MADD is at heart a bureaucracy, a big one,” Balko wrote. “It boasts an annual budget of $45 million, $12 million of which pays for salaries, pensions and benefits. Bureaucracies don’t change easily, even when the problems they were created to address change.” Charity Watch gives MADD a “C-” grade.

Prior to MADD’s influence, drunk driving laws addressed the danger by making it a criminal offense to drive a vehicle while impaired — that is, while “under the influence of alcohol,” according to Wikipedia. The amount of alcohol in the body was evidence of that impairment.

The level specified at that time, commonly, 0.15 percent, was high enough to indicate drunkenness rather than impairment. In part due to MADD’s influence, all 50 states have now passed laws making it a criminal offense to drive with a designated level of alcohol of .08 percent or higher.

Non-profit organizations typically permit their chapters to keep most of the money they raise. For example, Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) chapters get to keep 90 percent of all funds they raise, but MADD claims ownership of every penny raised by all its many chapters, David Hanson wrote.

Thus, after raising $129,000 locally and turning it all over as MADD demands, the Las Vegas chapter received a check from the national office for $1.29 as its share. MADD’s “focus is on greed,” said the chapter president, who reported, “I’ve never seen such bloodsuckers!”

All items in some issues of Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s MADD E-Newsletter are devoted entirely to MADD’s primary mission of fundraising, Hanson wrote. They contain no pleas for sober driving, no calls for more sobriety checkpoints, no news reports, no petitions for legislation to reduce impaired driving and improve traffic safety — just fundraising appeals.

According to the Obama-Coburn Federal Funding Accountability Transparency Act of 2006, MADD received $56,814 in funds from the federal government in fiscal year 2000, and a total of $9,593,455 between fiscal years 2001 and 2006. In 1994, Money magazine reported that telemarketers raised over $38 million for MADD, keeping nearly half of it in fees.

In 2005, USA Today reported that the American Institute of Philanthropy was reducing MADD from a “C” to a “D” in its ratings. The Institute noted that MADD categorizes much of its fundraising expenses as “educational expenses,” and that up to 58 percent of its revenue was expended on what the Institute considered fundraising and management.