National MADD president proposes new laws for drivers

Group pushes for lowering of legal blood-alcohol level

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2001

Millie Webb, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, will speak in Juneau on Saturday as part of the 34th annual membership meeting of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Juneau Affiliate.

Webb's theme for her first visit to Alaska is, "Time lost is lives lost." There are two main activities that MADD is taking on for 2001, she said.

The first activity is trying to get the legal blood-alcohol level for drunken driving lowered to 0.08 percent in every state, she said.

"President Clinton signed the (federal mandate) in October, but now we have to get it passed in every state. When we do, we should see a decrease in fatalities of 500 to 600 nationally per year," Webb said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Several Alaska lawmakers are pushing bills to lower the legal blood-alcohol level in drivers from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent. A new law passed by Congress requires states make the change to 0.08 or risk losing federal highway funds.

MADD's second activity is convincing each state to adopt a three-step recovery program for the high-risk driver who already has been convicted of drunken driving. The steps are:

Two-year court-ordered probation.

A substance-abuse treatment program of up to a year.

Meeting with a case manager once a month during treatment, to ensure that the offender is attending programs and staying on track.

In states that have Victim Impact Panels, there would be a fourth step, she said. The high-risk driver would attend a panel and hear victims describe what specific crashes have meant in their lives.

MADD celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2000, but the crash that forever changed Webb's life occurred nine years prior to MADD's inception.

In 1971 she was a passenger in a car driven by her husband, Roy. A driver with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent rear-ended the family vehicle, which was also carrying their 4 1/2-year-old daughter, Lori, and a nephew, 19-month-old Mitchell Pewitt Jr.

Seven months pregnant at the time, Webb suffered a broken neck and was burned on nearly 73 percent of her body. Roy also suffered severe burns. Mitchell lived six hours. Lori suffered for two weeks before dying of burns covering 75 percent of her body. Kara, Webb's baby, was born prematurely and legally blind as a result of the crash.

In 1982, Webb helped establish the first MADD chapter, in Tennessee. She is now in her second year of a two-year term as national president, traveling constantly, she said. She is making her first trip to Alaska to speak at the NCADD reception and to lend support to the founding of a MADD chapter in Juneau.

"I am here to encourage legislators to get legislation passed," she said.

A donation of $10 is requested for the local reception, which will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday in the Treadwell Room of the Baranof Hotel. For reservations, call Matt Felix, 463-2755. For details on MADD, click on Hot Links at www.juneauempire.com.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneau-empire.com.



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