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MADD Warns Against Drunk Driving As Year 2000 Approaches

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RALEIGH — During the holidays, we are normally bombarded with messages reminding us not to drink and drive, but this year is different. With the year 2000 looming, many people are distracted thinking about other things.

We are used to seeing a lot of the red ribbons fromMADDon the road during the holiday season, but this year the focus seems to be more on Y2K crashes and not drunk driving crashes.

However, MADD wants to remind drivers that 63 percent of highway deaths on New Year's Eve involve alcohol.

When a drunk driver with a suspended license hit and killed two Raleigh teenagers in October 1998, their families became crusaders against drunk driving.

John and Cheryl Barrows, the parents of victim Timothy Barrows, were relieved that the drunk driver, Oscar Melendez, received 39 years in prison, but it did not take away the pain.

"It's been an everyday issue with us, and to us it was murder," said John Barrows.

"One of things that we're going to be focusing on most for the new millenium is the repeat offender," said Shannon Page, MADD director.

North Carolina has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country, but the executive director for MADD says as we enter a new century, we cannot get complacent especially on this New Year's Eve.

"It is a larger cause for celebration, and with that comes an increased chance of impaired drivers on the roadways. That's definitely something everyone needs to be concerned about," said Page.

"We know there's going to be more parties at this time of year and if just by talking to you means that one person stops taking that next drink or makes sure they have a designated driver and saves a life, anything is worth that," said Barrows.

Repeat drunk drivers account for one-third of the drunk drivers arrested and involved in fatal crashes.

In the next century, MADD's biggest goal is to help toughen laws against repeat offenders and to encourage judges to impose the strongest possible penalties.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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