Pamela Morton, state victims’ services coordinator for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, shared with more than 30 officers during two-hour sessions Tuesday and Thursday. Her purpose was to spread awareness about the services MADD offers and to thank and encourage law enforcement for their efforts in reducing drunken and drugged driving.
“You are our first line of defense in keeping the citizens of Sylacauga safe, and I don’t want you to ever feel like we’re not grateful for what you do,” she told officers. “If you decide ‘I’m just going to let this (drunken driver) go,’ they may go down the road and kill someone, so when you take that person off the road, you are saving countless lives.”
Morton encouraged officers to continue to arrest drunken drivers, even if the person is later released and they may feel the arrest did no good.
Police Sgt. Matt Emlich said Morton’s encouragement was confirmation that their work is making an impact. Sylacauga police made 61 arrests last year for driving under the influence, he said.
“She shared some statistics Tuesday that showed that what we’re doing is working,” Emlich said. “So that is validation for our officers. It has also been a good refresher as we are gearing up for more training on drunk driving and sobriety checkpoints.”
As victims’ services coordinator, Morton said she works directly with victims of drunken and drugged driving incidents to provide grief support and court accompaniment, whether the incident involves death, injury, emotional impact or the loss of property.
“You will never hear anyone within the MADD organization call it an accident,” Morton said. “An accident is something unforeseeable, but it’s foreseeable that if you consume alcohol and get behind the wheel, you may hurt yourself or someone else. We refer to it as a crash or a wreck, because that’s exactly what it does to families.”
In 2012, the organization served 61,000 victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes. Morton said the families she encounters across Alabama are often torn apart after the loss of their loved. Families are not the only victims, either. Victims can include witnesses, law enforcement and emergency personnel who respond to the scene, and the family and friends of the drunk driver, she said.
MADD is a nationwide nonprofit organization founded in 1980 by a woman whose daughter was killed by a repeat offender. According to MADD’s website, 28 people die in America each day from drunken driving wrecks, and drunken driving costs the U.S. $132 billion annually.
Drunken driving deaths have been cut in half since MADD was founded, the website says.
Morton said that at the end of the day, drunk driving is a totally preventable crime that “simply should not happen. If you are over 21, drink responsibly. We want to encourage the citizens of Sylacauga to not operate a vehicle. We’ve all made poor decisions at one time or another, but that’s just something you don’t have to do.”
For more information about MADD, contact Morton at email@example.com.
Contact Emily McLain at firstname.lastname@example.org.