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29 Deaths A Day from Drunk Driving: Enough is Enough

Local community leaders and businesses are rallying round to support the Walk Like MADD 5K taking place in Freeport, Florida next month.

The 5K run and walk will raise vital funds for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and their advocacy efforts to educate drivers, end drunk and drugged driving, support victims of drunk driving and prevent underage drinking.

For anyone unaware of the extent of this problem, the numbers are staggering.

More than a million people are arrested for drunk or drugged driving each year.

Each day, people drive drunk more than 300,000 times.

Every two minutes, someone is injured in a drunk driving accident, and 29 people die from drunk driving every day.

Of all fatal road traffic accidents, 1 in 10 was caused by drunk driving during the day. At night, that figure rises to 1 in 3.

The Freeport event is being hosted by MADD Northwest Florida and emceed by WMBB News 13 reporter Tess Rowland, herself a victim of drunk driving.

“This cause is personal to me.” said Tess.

“On May 4, 2021, my life was forever changed by one person’s selfish choice to drink and drive,” says Tess.

Tess has undergone 7 surgical procedures, and her fractures required 4 plates and 22 screws to fix.

“That’s why I’m so proud to be emceeing the Walk Like MADD 5K on September 18th in Freeport. The whole purpose of this event is to educate the community about the dangers of impaired driving in a positive way, while also providing support to survivors and victims.” explained Tess.

The event is typically held in Okaloosa County but is being relocated to Freeport this year.

As well as walking or running to raise funds and awareness, families can shop or browse at the Freeport Farmers Market, meet local law enforcement officers from Walton County – including the K9 team - and learn about the dangers of drunk driving with a vehicle roll over simulator, impairment obstacle course and other tests and exercises.

Tess has been a leading voice in the battle against drunk driving in our community since her horrific accident.

“I’ve been public about my recovery journey and gained the support of the whole community through my weekly video updates for our WMBB News 13 viewers.”

And Tess’ efforts aren’t just about raising awareness, she has helped put some practical programs in place too.

“I coordinated with City of Panama City Beach and local family-owned business, White’s Wreckers Service to provide a free tow and a ride home for anyone who has overindulged — no questions asked.”

And because law enforcement is such an important part of stopping drunk driving, Tess assisted in creating Bay County’s first ever DUI Task Force.

It’s the first of its kind,” explains Tess.

The DUI task force includes Florida Highway Patrol, Bay County Sherriff’s Office, Panama City, Panama City Beach, Lynn Haven, Springfield, and Parker Police Departments.

“Drunk and Drugged Driving is completely avoidable. It is only the selfish and careless acts of people who are impaired which leads to the life changing and life-ending consequences,” says Tess.

“I hope our event in Freeport on September 18th is one more step towards our goal of zero – zero deaths from drunk driving, zero injuries from drunk driving and importantly zero instances of drunk driving.”

You can sign up for the 5k Walk/Run here.

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