RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Virginia and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles launches a new victim focused campaign to stop impaired driving throughout the year.
With one week until the 4th of July holiday, the organization is focused on cracking down on the number of alcohol-related deaths.
In 2017, 237 people were killed by drunk drivers nationally over the 4th of July weekend.
“My nine-year-old daughter was killed in 1992 by someone who chose to drink and drive,” said Valarie Patterson-Ricks.
Patterson-Ricks knows all too well the pain of losing a child. It was even more prevalent Thursday.
“Today is her birthday,” she said. “She would have been 26 years of age today.”
Her birthday coming on a day where MADD Virginia launched a new PSA campaign to prevent people from driving drunk by sharing heart-wrenching stories of loved ones who were killed.
“The driver who was a fourth time offender, left the road and hit us both head on,” said Cathy Cooper, of Fluvanna County. “Little Robert was killed instantly, and I was left injured with multiple broken bones.”
Cooper spoke of the night her 11-month-old son Robert was killed, on the same day he took his first steps.
“My son did not die as a result of an accident,” Cooper said. “He died because someone made a choice. First to drink and then to drive.”
It’s these stories from families across the Commonwealth of Virginia that you will see over the next month on television, radio and social media.
“My dad’s life stopped because that man wouldn’t,” said Destani Huffman-Jefferson, of Chesterfield.
Huffman-Jefferson’s father, Alonza Jefferson Jr., was killed in 2016 by a drunk driver. Her story will air as one of the PSAs from MADD’s campaign.
“He worked day shift, and night shift and was really involved in his church too,” she said in the PSA. “He stopped going to church; he stopped spending time with his wife and kids; he didn’t play any of his vinyl records anymore, because in 2016 he was killed by a drunk driver.”
NBC12 covered the trial of Jefferson’s killer extensively in 2017.
While the family has gotten justice, the hope is for these PSAs to move past the numbers.
“It is my hope that people will see these PSAs, see the faces of the victims,” Cooper said. “We aren’t numbers, we aren’t statistics, we are faces and we are real people… People who drink and drive, drink and kill.”
“Today has got to be the end of the day,” Patterson-Ricks added. “No more victims. We can’t take it. We have got to stop it some kind of way.”
Local law enforcement also in attendance for the campaign launch urged the public to prepare ahead of time if you plan on drinking.
There are several ride-share options available for people who plan to consume alcohol.
In 2018, 278 people were killed in Virginia from alcohol-related crashes. The state suffered a 12% increase from 2017, and a 1% increase in injuries.
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