Miss America Gets MADD
national spokesperson, Miss America will promote her platform Building Intolerance to Drunk Driving and Underage Drinking — the first of its kind in the history of Miss America.
"We are honored to work with Miss America and are excited about the impact she will make," said Glynn Birch, MADD national president. "Jennifer will tackle tough issues that she knows well as a five-year volunteer for MADD on the state and local level in Oklahoma. The more people we can reach together, the more lives we can save."
Miss America will travel the country talking about MADD and its lifesaving goals including reducing drunk driving fatalities by 25 percent, supporting highly visible enforcement efforts, serving more victims/survivors of drunk driving and reducing binge drinking among college students in the next three years.
"MADD’s mission is my mission," said Miss America 2006 Jennifer Berry of Tulsa, Okla. "With MADD as my platform partner, I will take every opportunity to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers and consequences of drunk driving and underage drinking."
During July 4th weekend 1999, Miss Berry’s life changed forever when she received the tragic news that one of her high school girlfriends was killed in an underage drunk driving crash. Her 15-year-old friend and a handful of other teens were at the lake and had been drinking. As they were heading to another party, the underage driver lost control of the car. Her friend — sitting in the back seat and unbelted — was killed instantly. The other teens were uninjured. Berry added, "The death of my friend has made a lasting mark on my life.
It was the first funeral I ever attended and that experience sparked a need to do something to help save other lives. I hope to be able to use my title as Miss America to make a lasting mark for the better."
The launch announcement was held in Philadelphia to help drive the state’s legislative efforts. MADD and Miss America called for new laws in Pennsylvania including primary seatbelt. A primary seat belt law allows law enforcement to pull over a driver for not buckling-up. And research shows that drunk drivers typically don’t wear their seat belt. "A seat belt is your best defense against a drunk driver," said Berry.
The groups also supported other laws including Administrative License Suspension allowing police to immediately suspend a driver’s license at the time of an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) or for refusal to submit to a breath test; vehicle immobilization which is effective in reducing DUIs among repeat offenders; and keg registration requiring purchasers to register their information that can be tracked if minors are served alcohol.
"Keg tagging is about prevention. The goal is to stop adults from purchasing kegs for minors," said Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, sponsor of Senate Bill 73, which would require keg identification tagging in Pennsylvania. "Twenty-four other states and the District of Columbia utilize this tool to help reduce underage drinking. It is a tactic that would be worth trying in the commonwealth."
Flanked by Pennsylvania State Police troopers and Philadelphia Police officers, MADD and Miss America applauded law enforcement for their selfless work and encouraged increased enforcement efforts to protect lives.
"It’s time to shine the spotlight on needed laws and support law enforcement," said Rebecca Shaver, executive director, MADD Pennsylvania State Office. "Our state can do better and must do better to protect our loved ones from drunk driving and youth from underage drinking. These tragedies are 100 percent preventable. And we need 100 percent support from our legislators and the public."
In 2004, 16,694 people were killed nationally in alcohol-related traffic crashes, accounting for 39 percent of all traffic crashes. Of those, 12,874 were killed in crashes where the driver had a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or higher. In Pennsylvania, 614 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes (541 drunk driving deaths), representing 41 percent of all traffic fatalities. Alcohol is the No. 1 drug of choice among the nation’s youth and kills more teens than all other illicit drugs combined. More than one third of all traffic deaths among 15-20 year olds involve alcohol.
Jennifer Berry, 22, from Tulsa, Okla., was crowned Miss America on January 21. She is a President’s Honor Roll student at the University of Oklahoma majoring in elementary education. Berry’s ambition is to obtain a Master’s Degree in Education and become an elementary school teacher.
"We are proud to have MADD as a corporate sponsor and to have them partner with Miss America 2006 Jennifer Berry as she launches her platform today," said Art McMaster, president of the Miss America Organization. "We believe that supporting this cause on a national level brings promise and awareness to such an important issue that continues to face our society."