Author: Attorney Melinda H. South
Recently I had the privilege of attending the Annual Law Enforcement Awards Ceremony of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving – Virginia Chapter) at the Chesterfield Airport. It was a moving evening to see the men and women of the local police departments and sheriffs’ offices recognized for their contributions in stopping drunk drivers and in turn making the highways safer. The evening recognized officers in Central Virginia from Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Goochland, Powhatan, Dinwiddie, Petersburg, Prince George, New Kent, Surry, Sussex, Hopewell, Emporia, Colonial Heights and Greensville.
Speaking on behalf of the Allen firm and the community, attorney Tammy Ruble thanked the officers for their work. She said she hoped that, by their efforts, her 17-year-old daughter would be spared the grief that Tammy remembers when she was the same age and received a phone call that a friend had been killed by a drunk driver. Tammy also presented MADD’s Outstanding Law Enforcement Award to Virginia State Trooper W. M. Boelt. Trooper Boelt’s dedication to his job resulted in 103 drunk drivers being taken off the road in the last year alone.
In all, 36 men and women in uniform were recognized from 17 local law enforcement departments in central Virginia. These officers were responsible for nearly 1,000 DUI arrests last year. As each person came forward to accept the award, I thought of the bravery of these folks when arresting some of the intoxicated persons they encounter. The abusive and combative situations these officers must face gave me a new appreciation for their jobs. The parents and spouses of these officers were also recognized and my heart went out to them. Despite being very proud of their loved ones, there has to be a concern every time they leave for work for their safe return.
This is a close knit group, as we saw this past week with the tremendous support the State Police received after Trooper Mark D. Barrett died. Trooper Barrett was a member of the Virginia State Police Search and Recovery Team, and was participating in routine diving exercises with 15 other divers when he died. Other law enforcement groups filled in for the State Police so the troopers were able to attend the funeral.
If you are wondering just how much of a problem drinking and driving is, here are some facts about drinking and driving in Virginia for 2009:
1. 316 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes.
2. 21 teenagers died in drunk driving crashes in Virginia.
3. 6,256 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes including 644 teenagers.
4. 31,434 drivers were convicted of DUI in Virginia.
If you are interested, there is more information available at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and MADD websites.
About the Author: Melinda H. South is an Richmond attorney with the personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen. Melinda works as a legal researcher and assists in the preparation of firm briefs and legal memoranda.
 See statistics at: Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV).