Last updated: January 06. 2014 10:14AM - 373 Views
Natalie Netzel Staff Writer

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NEWBERRY — The Newberry County Coalition on Underage Drinking recently welcomed MADD representative Steven Buritt to discuss how people can volunteer to put an end to drunk driving and underage drinking.

MADD is for the deterring of drunk driving and underage drinking while the coalition’s responsibility is to help curb the underage drinking problem in the county. Together, the two united to help curb these issues.

Buritt began with the most recent data saying it was not a good year in regards to DUIs, especially in South Carolina.

There was a “16 percent increase in DUI fatalities,” he said.

Buritt said the MADD campaign involves three components: supporting the heroes in law enforcement and supporting sobriety checkpoints, ignition interlock devices for vehicles and advancing technologies to help stop drunk driving.

Sobriety checkpoints are an effective tool used by law enforcement and are proven to reduce fatalities. They are typically publicized in advance and vehicles are stopped at a specific sequence on roads.

An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a cell phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A convicted drunk driver must blow into the device to start a vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start.

Currently, South Carolina requires this for second offenders but Buritt said “we are pushing for all first offense DUI offenders.”

“States who have passed this have seen a decreased in DUIs,” said Buritt.

MADD supports technologies that can be useful in stopping or convicting drunk driving. One technology the organization pushes for is a driver alcohol detection system for safety which is a touch-based system that can read the blood alcohol concentration through the fingertips. The other is an air-sampling system that can test and isolate the air exhaled by the driver. Both of these systems are well on their way to being tested in real vehicles.

MADD also has a program called the Power of Parents facilitator training.

This is free to parents and consists of about a 30 minute presentation, Buritt said, who added that currently MADD has 10 certified trainers and the organization plans to have more this year.

“Three-quarters of kids say parents do influence their decision. There are ways to have quality conversations,” Buritt said.

A power of youth program to be offered in the future, which will be an opportunity for youth to make a difference in their community.

“We have victim services for anyone victimized by underage drinking, impaired drivers,” said Buritt. “We talk to kids, parents. We also check on victims.”

In 2012, MADD provided victim services to over 61,000 victims and survivors nationwide serving one victim and survivor every 8.6 minutes at no charge.

The organization also has its S.C. Walk like MADD 5k, which is set this year to be in Columbia at Saluda Shoals Park.

Buritt said there are plenty of ways to get involved in MADD:

— Co-facilitating victim impact panels or classes that are sessions for court ordered DUI offenders where one or more victims speak. Facilitators can set up the VIPs, register participants, recruit speakers, etc.

— Join the Speakers’ Bureau. This can involve health fairs or community events where people man a MADD table or booth to answer questions and hand out materials. The Newberry division often has a table at events around Newberry including the annual Oktoberfest.

— Tie One One for Safety red ribbon distribution helps get ribbons into the community between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

— Make a donation, order MADD supplies, donate a car to MADD to sign up for MADD updates on their website.

Visit www.madd.org/sc, send an email to Steven.Buritt@madd.org or visit www.madd.org/get-involved/ for more information.

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