Tragedy transformed Laura Dean-Mooney into advocate for MADD
A driver with blood alcohol content of 0.34 — far beyond the legal limit — changed Laura Dean-Mooney’s life forever.
Back in 1991, her husband, Mike, was driving along a Texas highway when the drunken driver — heading the wrong way — crashed head-on into Mike’s car. Her husband of less than three years was dead. Laura and Mike’s 8-month-old daughter no longer had a father. The drunken driver also was killed; a nearly empty bottle of whiskey was found in his vehicle.
That tragedy put Dean-Mooney on the path toward preventing others from suffering the same fate that she had suffered. A longtime volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Dean-Moody became national president of the organization in July 2008. Her term as president expires in June 2011.
|Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says that anytime after midnight, an impaired driver could be behind the wheel of every third car you pass.|
In an interview with InsuranceQuotes.com, Dean-Mooney shares reasons for the nationwide decline in drunken driving deaths and explains how MADD is working to protect Americans against drunken driving. Drunken driving accounts for about one-third of U.S. traffic deaths.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What was life like right after your husband’s death?
Laura Dean-Mooney: It was as devastating as you could imagine. Mike (assistant vice president for life insurance sales at Western Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co.) and I had only been married 2½ years. We had everything going for us. Our daughter had been born. We were enjoying parenthood. When he went on a business trip, I fully expected him to come home. He left on Nov. 19. Then that Thursday, I didn’t hear from him. So when there was a knock at my door at 10:30 at night and there stood this couple we were best friends with as well as our pastor, I instantly knew what was wrong. In an instant, he was taken from us, and our lives turned upside down. I was a single mom within seconds.
InsuranceQuotes.com: Why did you join MADD?
Dean-Mooney: I actually came to MADD as a donor. I brought a check after the civil suit was settled (in 1993) against the estate of the man who killed my husband. I designated it used for public policy efforts in Texas. My hope was that Texas would pass some tough laws so that other families wouldn’t have to go through what my family has gone through.
InsuranceQuotes.com: Has Texas passed tougher drunken driving laws?
Dean-Mooney: Unfortunately, (I’ve seen) very little in my home state of Texas. It leads the nation in the number of alcohol-related fatalities.
Dean-Mooney: There may be a mentality here that “It’s our right, dad-gummit, to drink and drive.” That doesn’t mean we stop fighting, and we will certainly continue to go back every legislative session … and ask that good laws be passed.
InsuranceQuotes.com: To what do you attribute the nationwide decrease in drunken driving deaths? (Federal data show 10,839 people were killed in drunken driving crashes on American roads in 2009, down 7 percent from the year before.)
Dean-Mooney: The biggest factor is we’re driving less because of the economic impact. We also believe that better law enforcement (through efforts such as sobriety checkpoints) is contributing to the decline. It is also combined with MADD’s efforts to educate the public through our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What has been the focus of that campaign?
|Drunken driving accounts for about one-third of U.S. traffic deaths.|
Dean-Mooney: We support the heroes, the law enforcement officers. We’re trying to get ignition interlock laws passed. We believe that if you’re a convicted drunk driver, you deserve to have an in-car Breathalyzer put in your car for a minimum of six months. It allows the offender to drive legally. The final prong of that campaign … is technology that’s being developed that one day will turn cars into the cure for the elimination of drunk driving. So that if you get in your car and 15 years from now and you start it and it detects that you’re above the legal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol content, your car will not go into gear. We believe that’s going to be the ultimate solution to drunk driving.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What can Americans do in their day-to-day lives to combat drunken driving?
Dean-Mooney: Never drive drunk. I know it sounds simple, but people forget sometimes. Never ride with an impaired driver. Also making sure that you take away the keys or you offer to be the designated driver yourself.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What should drivers be looking out for on the road to avoid being a victim?
Dean-Mooney: Be on the alert. Anytime after midnight, potentially every third car you pass is being driven by an impaired driver. That’s pretty scary. Look for signs — weaving, seeing a car without their headlights on, seeing a car that’s going extremely fast or extremely slow. Pull over and dial 911 to report the suspected drunk driver. If you can, get the tag number. It’s difficult to do that safely because that means getting close to that car.
InsuranceQuotes.com: How concerned should law-abiding drivers be about being injured or killed by a drunken driver?
Dean-Mooney: They should be very concerned. Here’s why: The U.S. Department of Transportation compiled an estimate two years ago from various states. It estimates that there are 2 million drivers that have three or more DUI convictions. Even more scary, 400,000 people are driving our roads with five or more DUIs.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What do you hope to accomplish at MADD before your term as national president ends?
Dean-Mooney: I hope that more states would have passed ignition interlock laws for all offenders. Currently, 13 states require it for all offenders. The other thing I hope to see accomplished is that people will see you’ve got to start talking to your kids early, hopefully by fourth grade, about the dangers of underage drinking. (MADD’s effort is called Power of Parents, It’s Your Influence). April 21 is a national day to draw attention to why parents need to talk to their kids.