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This year, MADD Florida wanted to illustrate the significance of our state-wide recognition program by highlighting top honorees from the recognition ceremony in 2018.

In this interview, we feature Ms. Elizabeth Willis, Florida Highway Safety Department. She received top honors for Underage Drinking Prevention – Civilian – Individual. Ms. Willis’ nomination reads:

I am honored to nominate Elizabeth Willis, Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Office of Driver Safety Bureau of Motorist Compliance for the Underage Drinking Prevention (Civilian – Individual) award. Ms. Willis is the coordinator for The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ (DHSMV) teen driver safety program that began in 2009, and, since then, the department has provided presentations regarding traffic safety and Graduated Driver License laws to thousands of teens throughout Florida. In 2017 Ms. Willis did 62 teen presentations and reached 1,619 teens across the state. In Northwest Florida, Ms. Willis reached 550 teens and made over 20 teen presentations in 2017.

During her presentations she not only discusses with teens about traffic safety but educates them about the dangers of impaired driving. In addition, Ms. Willis provides an interactive experience demonstrating the effects of alcohol impairment using an Impaired Driving Simulator and Fatal Vision® Impairment Goggles.

In many occasions Ms. Willis and her unit have partnered with MADD’s Power of Youth program bringing the Impaired Driving Simulator and Fatal Vision Googles. She has collaborated with MADD and presented at different community centers, teen centers, high schools and at drug court. In the summer of 2017 Ms. Willis partnered with MADD NWFL and Tallahassee Police Department for Let’s Talk Summer Series. This program lasted all summer and focused on speaking to teens about drugs, the dangers of underage drinking and related consequences-specifically, deaths and injuries resulting from riding in a car with an impaired driver.

Furthermore, Ms. Willis has brought the Driving Simulator to our 2017 Walk Like MADD, Tie One of For Safety Press Conference and Safety Fair, You Fit’s Client Appreciation Day with MADD, Leon Count Week of Awareness and many other community events.

I am pleased to nominate a fellow advocate that wants to promote traffic safety among teens.
Credit: Irving PD

1. What was the significance/meaning of receiving Top Honoree at the 2018 MADD Florida Recognition Ceremony?

I lost my cousin, Adam, when he was 18 years old to a drunk driving crash – 3 days before his high school graduation. His loss is a huge part of my passion for traffic safety. It really means a lot to me to be fortunate enough to work in a job that allows me to leave a positive impact on our future and a tribute to Adam’s memory. I have always been impressed with MADD’s ongoing efforts to reduce the number of DUI crashes/deaths, but also the never-ending support for those victims and family members who have lost loved ones to DUI crashes. It is an honor to be recognized by MADD for my efforts.

2. What was your reaction when you found out you were nominated?

I was honored and extremely grateful! It is always pleasant to be recognized for your hard work and dedication.

3. How did it feel when you found out you received top honoree in your nominated category?

I was thrilled! Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the ceremony. Claudia, who works with MADD of Northwest FL was kind enough to send me a video of when they announced me as the top honoree.

4. If you could do one thing, leave one mark in the community, what would it be?

I want people to understand the impact their actions have on themselves and everyone around them – how their one decision, no matter how big or small, can significantly alter the rest of their life and the lives of many others; And in that understanding, we should take actions to ensure we make the best decision possible, every time. During the beginning of my presentations, I always tell the students, I am not here to tell you what you CAN and CAN’T do or give you a list of rules – I simply want to  have a conversation. At the end of presentation, we talk about the MANY small decisions that are made during the course of operating a vehicle and how any one of those tiny decisions could affect themselves, their loved ones, friends, classmates and so many others. “You can only control two things in life. Your ATTITUDE and your ACTIONS.” – Darren Hardy

5. Will you be attending this year’s ceremony?

While I would love to attend, probably not.

5. Fun Fact Question: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Almost ANYTHING creative! I love to dance (I used to teach ZUMBA®), house-projects/repurposing old furniture and crocheting, to name a few.