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MADD ANNIVERSARY Success measured in lives



Published: Tue, May 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The local MADD chapter is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

BOARDMAN -- A 3-year-old girl, safe in her daddy's arms, stares back at the crowd from the photograph.

It's sad.

The little girl is dead.

So are all of the others whose pictures are posted on the bulletin board: a 12-year-old girl with long, dark hair; a teen-age boy; a college student; a middle-aged man; somebody's daughter, granddaughter, brother, sister, son. A collage of tragedy. Lives cut short by drunken drivers.

It's been more than 20 years since Laura Porter, a 20-year-old Poland woman, was killed by a drunken driver, but her mother, Shirley Porter, still remembers waking up to the voice of a friend.

Candy Lightner, one of the founders of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was on the television, talking about her daughter who'd also been killed by a drunken driver. Although she'd been sedated, Shirley vividly recalls the connection she felt. "At that moment," she said, "I felt that I wasn't alone."

Four months later, she saw Lightner on television again. This time, Shirley picked up the phone and called her, eager to know what she could do to help get drunken drivers off the road and spare someone else from losing a loved one.

How group began

Together with Nellie Meadows of Boardman and about 20 other parents and friends who'd lost loved ones in traffic crashes caused by drunken drivers, Porter founded the Mahoning County Chapter of MADD.

Meadows' daughter, Cathy Meadows, a 1980 Boardman High School graduate, was a friend of Laura Porter's and was killed in the same crash, July 1, 1981.

The Mahoning County Chapter of MADD was chartered March 26, 1982.

Monday, some 80 members, volunteers and supporters turned out to celebrate 20 years of steady progress in reducing the number of traffic deaths and injuries caused by drunken drivers.

In the early 1990s, the national organization of MADD set a goal, to reduce the number of deaths caused by drunken drivers by 20 percent by the year 2000.

"We surpassed that," said Jean DiVincenzo of Boardman.

DiVincenzo's 12-year-old daughter, Cathy DiVincenzo, was killed when a drunken driver broadsided the car she and her two sisters were riding in. The girls were leaving a Boardman roller rink after a school skating party Nov. 13, 1981, when their car was struck.

"We've seen a 40-percent decrease in traffic fatalities caused by drunken drivers," said the national president of MADD, Millie Webb, of Franklin, Tenn.

"Even so, last year 16,652 people were killed and another 600,000 injured by drunken drivers. Drinking and driving is still the most frequent violent crime committed."

In Ohio, 809 people were killed by drunken drivers in 1996. Last year, that dropped to 350.

Webb was keynote speaker at MADD's Mahoning/Trumbull County Chapter's 20th anniversary dinner at the Holiday Inn, Boardman.

Trumbull County was incorporated into MADD's Mahoning County Chapter on Oct. 14, 2001.

Tougher laws

When MADD was founded in 1980, "drinking and driving was a socially acceptable way of killing somebody. MADD has changed that," noted Nellie Meadows.

"When my daughter was killed, the prosecutor told me no one ever went to jail for drunk driving," Shirley Porter added.

The man who killed their daughters was one of the first to be sentenced to prison. He received a one-to-five-year sentence but served 97 days behind bars.

Since then, penalties have become tougher and Americans have become less tolerant of drunken drivers, Webb said.

Today, the Mahoning/Trumbull County Chapter of MADD has some 200 members.

kubik@vindy.com




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