MADD reorganizing SWLA Chapter

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Louisiana remains among the top states for drinking and driving with Calcasieu Parish among the top parishes in the state for DWIs. Revived by new leadership, Mother's Against Drunk Driving Southwest Louisiana chapter wants to change that culture while healing their pain.

A small meeting on Saturday, was a big step for the group. Working with local law enforcement they are ready to reestablish themselves in the community.

"We see the decision of drinking and driving as a poor choice. Good people make bad decisions all the time," said Donna Tate, Louisiana MADD Executive Director.

Bad decisions have affected every family at the meeting. Most did not get involved with MADD until losing a loved one.

"It happens to one in three families in our country. It can happen at any time. It doesn't discriminate. And it doesn't pick and chose who it's going to affect so it can happen to any of us. And it's better to get involved early and help prevent it than wait until it has happened and deal with the aftermath," said Tate.

While at the meeting, it's a chance for them to share their heartache - stories that will make you stop and think before ever getting behind the wheel after taking a drink.

"It can happen. And everybody thinks that it can't happen to them, but it does," said Garland White.

It's been two years since Garland and Jennifer White were awakened by a knock at the door at 3 a.m. telling them their son was killed in a crash.

"Every day is a difficult day for us. It never goes away. I mean I wake up with it. We go to bed with it, every holiday, every birthday, it's always going to be there," said White. "Christopher did leave us a granddaughter, so that makes it a little easier to bear, but it's still hard.

Christopher Routt will forever be 21. After a night of drinking he gave his keys to his best friend - trouble is he shouldn't have been driving either. While Chris died instantly, his friend survived, losing both his legs in the accident. He now goes around talking to groups about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Garland says part of keeping Christopher's memory alive is facing the pain and talking about prevention.

"If we can stop just one case or episode of this, someone beating on the door saying we got bad news. If we can stop that... That's our goal," said Garland.

Barbara Dartez shares that same goal. Her grandson Ryan Vezinot was killed while crossing the street after an LSU football game.

"Beautiful, beautiful young man with his life ahead of him, just snuffed out because somebody decided to drive drunk," said Dartez.

The accident happened in October of 2007. 24-year-old Ryan would die in the hospital eight months later from brain injuries. The driver who hit Ryan got off with no jail time, prompting Dartez to take a stand.

"It didn't happen right away. You go through a grieving process and you hurt and your cry and I wanted to do this in Ryan's honor. It's like the Lord put this in my heart to get involved," said Dartez.

Guided by her faith and the support of others, Dartez is prepared to fight and bring about change.

"We need to get the state legislature involved in toughening up the penalties for drinking and driving," said Dartez.

If you would like to get involved with MADD click here.

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