Local MADD representative receives state award
RALEIGH — When Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980, drunk driving killed more than 21,000 people annually. Since that time, the number of drunk driving deaths has been cut by more than half. However, drunk driving still accounts for nearly one third of all traffic fatalities.
MADD has put a face on this violent crime and has made drunk driving socially unacceptable. This success is a direct result of dedicated volunteers working to make a difference in their communities. On Thursday, Jan. 16, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program honored a number of traffic safety professionals for their efforts to keep state roads safe.
Among those honored was Ellen Pitt of Maggie Valley, who is the MADD representative for western North Carolina. Pitt received the Director’s Award – Highway Safety Partner of the Year. Though she isn’t in law enforcement, she’s one of MADD’s “first responders.”
“MADD North Carolina had, in my view, helped me to rescue my then 7-year-old granddaughter from riding daily with a relentless drunk and drugged driver. Once I saw what a focused and high-integrity organization could do, it became my mission to rescue every child that I could,” Pitt said when asked why she volunteers. She began volunteering in 2003 and has been going strong ever since.
“It is truly an honor to work alongside Ellen to eliminate drunk driving,” said LaRonda Scott, MADD state executive director. “Her efforts, her voice goings beyond county lines and has a positive impact across our state.”
North Carolina is a safer place because of the tireless efforts of Ellen Pitt and the relationships she has developed during the 11 years she’s volunteered with MADD, Scott said.
She provides moral support to her local law enforcement and coordinates training opportunities to insure they have the skill/resources necessary to keep impaired drivers off our roads.
She helps victims survive and thrive by providing emotional support, community referrals, literature, and support in navigating the criminal justice system.
She was instrumental in having DWI punishment changed so that an impaired driver with a passenger under age 18 in the car, upon conviction, must be sentenced to at least 30 days in jail.
She has helped obtain funding and change the law to allow hospitals to test blood since the State Crime Laboratory is so backlogged.
She also helped raise awareness for the need of a Western North Carolina crime laboratory and the legislature appropriated planning money for the Western laboratory.
“She has a knack for rallying the community and moving them to action. Her efforts have brought lifesaving changes to North Carolina,” said Don Nail, director of Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
To learn how you can join Ellen and other volunteers working to eliminate drunk driving and prevent underage drinking, visit MADD at madd.org/nc.