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MADD is fighting more than drunk drivers

State Senator Mike Padden continues his fight to toughen Washington state's DUI law. (AP)

They’ve battled drunk driving for years, but in light of our state’s legalization of marijuana and the ever rising use of cellphones, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has had to add more “D’s” to its mission.

Drunk, drugged and distracted are all playing a huge part in crashes and deaths across Washington state.

“It’s not an accident. These are not accidents,” said Joan Davis, a volunteer and board member with Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Kitsap County. “These are 100 percent avoidable occurrences.”

Marijuana, driving and fatalities: Putting it into perspective

She joined the organization after a drunk driver smashed head-on into her daughter Jessica as the young woman drove home from work.

“We got a call at 8:30 that evening from my son-in-law who said ‘mom, mom, mom, there’s been a crash and Jessica’s dead!”

Needless to say, it was devastating. Nearly eight years later and the pain is still almost unbearable, Davis said.

But since the crash, Davis has spoken frequently about the dangers of drunk driving to school groups, victim’s panels, and anyone else who’ll listen.

“When I speak about here, I wear her wedding ring that had to be cut off her dead hand. You don’t get to come back,” she said.

Despite the best effort of Davis and many advocates, the number of impaired driving deaths in our state hasn’t decreased. In fact, since the legalization of marijuana, the number of drugged drivers involved in deadly crashes has dramatically increased.

“Half of the drivers that are killed in drunk driving crashes that tested positive for alcohol also tested for drugs of one sort or another,” Davis said.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes testing positive for marijuana nearly doubled between 2010 and 2014.

She insists MADD isn’t some temperance or teetotaling group and takes no position on alcohol or drug use. But she says there’s no way around it — a lot more people are driving stoned.

“Drive down the street. Every two blocks there’s a marijuana store and people buy it and smoke it and drive away. That’s just how it is,” she said.

That’s why the Washington state chapter worked so hard to successfully lobby the national association to add drugged driving to its charter.

And for anyone who says they can drive even a little impaired without problems, Davis says the thought of her daughter crushed by a drunk driver haunts her every day and should haunt others.

“I just don’t want any other family to have to go through what we have because it’s so damaging to everybody involved. I’m not the same person I was before Jessica died. I’ll never be the same person,” she said.

That’s why volunteers like Joan and fellow board member Mischelle Davis work tirelessly to spread the word about the dangers of drunk, drugged and distracted driving.

If you have to get in the car to go to work, to go to school, to go to the grocery story, to go to church, whatever is that is important to you, then you are at risk,” Mischelle said.

That’s why MADD is asking for all our help, from volunteering to speak publicly to lobbying lawmakers on behalf of tougher DUI laws. You can also make a donation to help their advocacy efforts.

That’s why KIRO Radio, the Seattle Seahawks, and Carter Subaru are proud to honor Mothers Against Drunk Driving as our charity of the month.

Regardless, the one thing we can all do is not get behind the wheel if we’ve been drinking or using any other mind-altering substances.

“If you care about your own life, the lives of your family members and children and friends and people you care about, then you need to get behind this. This is a public safety issue that affects all of us,” Mischelle Davis said.

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