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MADD, Nationwide Urge Parents To ‘Keep Talking’ About Alcohol and Other Drugs During Busy Spring Season

MIAMI (March 20, 2019) – Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and National Presenting Sponsor Nationwide kicked off our Spring PowerTalk 21 Campaign at an event Tuesday highlighting the dangers of underage drinking — and busting myths about marijuana use — to ignite discussions among parents and teens during the busy season of spring breaks, proms and graduations.

This year’s PowerTalk 21 Campaign — “Keep Talking” — runs from March 1 through May 31 and is part of MADD’s Power of Parents program, which is offered year-round to provide parents with resources they need to start the difficult conversations about the dangers and consequences of teen drinking and drug use. Through May 31, MADD affiliates across the country will host Power of Parents events and workshops for the Spring PowerTalk 21 Campaign.

“This time of year, when there are so many happy occasions to celebrate, is also a time to beware of the temptations that our teens face,” said MADD National President Helen Witty, whose 16-year-old daughter Helen Marie was struck and killed while rollerblading on a bike path by a drunk 17-year-old driver who had smoked marijuana throughout the day. “This is the most important time for parents to talk to your kids, because they listen to you. They look to you to set the tone. So tell them it’s not OK to drink when you’re under 21. It’s not OK to put harmful drugs in your system. I am grateful to Nationwide for helping us share this important message.”

“Part of Nationwide’s On Your Side Commitment is to help our members prevent losses and protect what matters most to them, keeping their families safe,” said Steven English, Senior Vice President, Government Relations at Nationwide. “We see the unfortunate consequences of underage drinking – the loss of loved ones, life changing injuries and the emotional distress caused by poor decisions related to alcohol. That is why our longstanding partnership to support MADD is so important to us.”

At the kickoff event at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Witty was joined by her husband John, along with David Greenwell, the Miami-Dade Police Department traffic homicide investigator who notified the Wittys about their daughter’s death, trauma surgeon Dr. Gabriel Ruiz, Stu Flacks, who made the life-altering decision at age 16 to get in the car with someone who had been drinking alcohol, and Jenny Reyes, daughter of Walter Reyes, who was killed by a Key Biscayne college student in a DUI crash.

“My father is not going to see me attend college, is not going to see me get married, have kids. He’s gone, he’s out of my life,” said Reyes. “All because of something that is 100% preventable.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year and can lead to early addiction as well as many other dangerous outcomes. In addition, marijuana is the leading cause of substance dependence other than alcohol in the United States.

This year, MADD is expanding its reach by encouraging parents to use the tools included in Power of Parents to not only talk to their kids about alcohol, but other drugs as well, including marijuana. Part of the discussion should address myths related to marijuana use, such as:

  • “Marijuana is safer than alcohol.” Fact: Both are drugs and are associated with serious problems, especially if used by those under the age of 21 while the brain and body are still in a rapid period of development.
  • “Marijuana makes me a better driver.” Fact: It is not safer to drive after marijuana consumption. Studies have shown that, of seriously injured drivers admitted to trauma centers, more than 1 out of 4 tested positive for marijuana. In another study of fatally injured drivers, more than 1 in 10 tested positive for marijuana.
  • “You cannot get addicted to marijuana.” Fact: Marijuana is currently the leading cause of substance dependence other than alcohol in the United States. Studies show that marijuana accounts for over 50 percent of the 7 million people age 12 or older who are dependent on or abusing a drug.

PowerTalk 21 is a part of MADD’s Power of Parents program that empowers parents of middle school and high school students to have ongoing, intentional conversations about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking and drug use. Parents can download free Power of Parents handbooks for parents of middle school and high school students at

About Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save nearly 380,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

About Nationwide®

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. The company provides customers a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto insurance, motorcycle, boat, homeowners, pet, life insurance, farm, commercial insurance, annuities, mortgages, mutual funds, pensions, long-term savings plans and specialty health services. For more information, visit

Nationwide, the Nationwide mark, and On Your Side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

Contact: Becky Iannotta, 202.600.2032 or [email protected]


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