MADD Victim Impact Panel seeks local speakers
WORTHINGTON -- In 2008, 163 individuals died in Minnesota as a direct result of alcohol-related crashes. More than 43,000 individuals in the state were arrested for driving while impaired (DWI), and of those, more than 1,000 had 10 or more DWIs on their driving record.
Locally, Worthington Police Officer Darin Vossen is looking for drunk driving victims, their families or people who have been charged with drunk driving to tell their stories. He is seeking speakers -- anyone who had been affected by a death or significant injury due to drunk driving -- for a victim impact panel.
In 1980, Candice Lightner of Irving, Texas, started a non-profit organization that seeks to stop drunk driving and pushes for stronger alcohol policies. The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) is to "stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking."
Lightner's 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver who had recently been arrested for a drunk driving hit and run. The young girl was walking down the street when she was hit, and the man left her body at the scene and drove away.
MADD believes drunk drivers and potential impaired drivers need to hear what happens to the victims in impaired driving crashes. The Victim Impact Panel is a tool for accomplishing this goal.
People who are convicted of impaired driving are generally required to attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel as part of their sentence. The Worthington panels take place quarterly, with the next date set for April 14.
"There is a $50 charge per person, and all the money goes to MADD victim advocacy," Vossen explained. "These are not open to the public and space is very limited."
The attendees, about 40 at each session, watch a video about drunk driving and listen as Vossen talks about statistics and how alcohol impairs the body. Then a speaker talks about their own personal experience.
In the past year, Vossen had brought in speakers through MADD from other areas. One was a woman from Martin County whose son was killed while he was a passenger in the vehicle of a drunk driver. Another had a husband and daughter killed when a drunk driver ran a stop sign.
A third woman is raising her granddaughter because a drunk driver killed her daughter. A 25-month-old girl was left motherless after being dropped off at her grandmother's for the day. The woman told the attendees her granddaughter wore her coat to bed every night for months because she was so sure her mother was coming to get her while she was sleeping.
"It's just a very sad story," Vossen stated.
While the stories have all been compelling and emotional, Vossen is hoping to get some speakers from the area.
"I'd prefer them to have about a half-hour presentation," he explained. "If they are willing to tell their personal story about how they were affected, or willing to speak about their conviction."
Anyone interested in speaking should contact Vossen at (507) 372-2136. The speaking engagements are on a volunteer basis, and Vossen believes the more volunteers, the better. Participants may be asked to have their name put on a speaker list for other MADD chapters who are seeking speakers.