Every day in America, 28 people die as a result of drunk driving traffic accidents. In addition, every two minutes, somebody is injured as a result of drunk driving (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). The grim reality is that many of the individuals killed or injured are not those that chose to drive impaired. Many times, they aren’t even passengers in the vehicle being operated by an impaired driver. They are sober, innocent drivers and passengers. Many times, they are children. They are sons and daughters. They are moms and dads. Grandparents.
These victims are not just another number. They aren’t just one of 28 unlucky ones that lost their lives due to drunk driving in any given day. They have stories and lives and a purpose. In many cases, their families have shared those stories and advocated enough to make a difference.
Leandra Rosado (New York)
Leandra Rosado was 11 years old when she was a passenger in a vehicle driven and crashed by a drunk driver. She did not Leandra Rosadosurvive. The vehicle was being driven by the mother of a friend of hers and was transporting seven young girls home for a sleepover.
Leandra’s father, Lenny Rosado, immediately responded by demanding that New York crack down on drunk driving laws. Leandra’s Law was passed on December 18, 2009 and makes it a felony to drive drunk with a child in your vehicle, according to criminaljustice.ny.gov. New York is one of 36 states with special child endangerment laws that toughen the charges against those that drive under the influence with a child in the vehicle.
Emma Longstreet (South Carolina)
Six-year-old Emma Longstreet was killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day in 2012. Emma was on the way to church with her family the morning their family van was struck by the drunk driver. Emma’s family established the Emma Longstreet Foundation to educate the public on the dangers of drunk driving.
Two years following Emma’s death, the total number of people killed because of drunk driving in Lexington County (Emma’s hometown) dropped from 41 to 27.
On October 1, 2014, Emma’s Law became effective, due to persistent efforts by David Longstreet, Emma’s father. Emma’s Law requires first offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.
The Longstreet family continues to work diligently to educate young Americans on the severity of drunk driving.
Noah Leotta (Maryland)
Officer Noah Leotta, 24, was struck and killed by a drunk driver in December of 2015. Noah was working a special DUI Noah Leottaassignment the night of the crash and had pulled over and approached a different vehicle. As he was returning to his cruiser, he was hit by the drunk driver.
As quoted in the Washington Post, Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger was outraged and publically criticized Maryland’s drunk driving penalties. “Officer Leotta’s death is an absolutely tragic loss,” Manger said. “This young police officer, who is an example of what every cop should be, was killed by a man who decided to smoke some dope, drink for four hours and get behind the wheel of a car.” Leotta died, Manger said, “trying to prevent the exact crime that killed him.”
According to MADD, Noah’s death has renewed previous efforts in Maryland to pass a bill requiring ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers. MADD dedicated their 2016 Ignition Interlock report to Noah and all who have been victims of drunk driving.
Melanie Powell (Massachusetts)
Melanie Powell, 13, was killed by a repeat offense drunk driver on July 25, 2003. Melanie was one of 156 people killed by drunk Melanie Powelldrivers in Massachusetts that year. Melanie was walking home from the beach with two of her friends. After a quick stop at the local convenience store to load up on snacks for that night’s sleepover, the trio was on their way. As Melanie started crossing the street, she was struck by a drunk driver and was thrown over 100 feet. Those at the scene described the driver as “reeking of alcohol.”
On October 28, 2005, Melanie’s Law was passed. This law overhauls Massachusetts’ previously ineffective drunk driving laws. In 2003 when Melanie was killed, MADD gave the state of Massachusetts a letter grade of “F” for their drunk driving laws. At that time, Massachusetts was only one of five states without a law requiring ignition interlocks for repeat offenders.
Melanie’s Law created an ignition interlock program in the state and requires all multiple drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock device. According to massrmv.com, over 4,000 ignition interlock devices have been installed since the law took effect. According to Melanie’s parents, if the law saves just one life, it will all be worth it (southofboston.net).
Annie Rooney (Ohio)
Annie Rooney was 36 years old when she was killed by a drunk driver on July 4, 3013 in Chillicothe, Ohio. Annie was a star Annie Rooneyathlete and prosecuting attorney where she spent much of her practice prosecuting domestic violence and DUI cases. Annie was traveling home after borrowing a friend’s bicycle when a drunk driver crossed the center lane and struck her car.
The Rooney family has been fighting for over a year to strengthen Ohio’s drunk driving laws by requiring that ignition interlock devices be installed in vehicles of first-time drunk driving offenders. The bill has been pulled many times but was reintroduced in December of 2015. Half of the states in the United States require ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders. If passed, Ohio would become the 26th state to require interlocks for all drunk driving offenders.
“We would not like anyone to ever go through what we have gone through,” Annie’s father, Dr. Richard Rooney, said in a recent news report.
Ricci Branca (New Jersey)
Ricci Branca, 17, was riding bikes with some friends along Ocean Drive when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. The boysRicci Branca
were riding single file and all suffered injuries. Ricci passed away on July 14, 2006, four days after the accident. He was an avid BMX bicyclist and enjoyed working on cars with his father.
Following Ricci’s death, the Branca family has fought tirelessly to strengthen drunk driving laws in the state.
“The one thing I promised him when he was lying in that trauma unit dying, was that I was never going to give up for him. I was never going to stop fighting to help prevent other families from going through this,” Sherri Branca, Ricci’s mother, said in a 2009 news article.
Ricci’s Law was signed into effect on this family’s kitchen table inside their home on January 14, 2010. The law requires first-time drunk driving offenders with a blood alcohol content above 0.15 to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. The family says this is only a start and they are committed to continuing working toward further strengthening those laws.
Ignition interlock devices save lives
The individuals featured above aren’t just more numbers added to the total of those who have lost their lives to drunk drivers. Their lives have made an impact and have influenced changes in drunk driving laws nationwide. Currently, only half of the states in the country have laws in place that require ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving offenders, so there is definitely progress to be made. As MADD highlights in their 2016 Ignition Interlock Report, states that have adapted these types of laws have seen huge decreases in alcohol-related traffic deaths.
To learn more about ignition interlock devices and how they can help protect against drunk driving, please call and speak to our state specialists at (855) 531-5244.