Women's History Month: Woman affected by impaired crash raises awareness to eliminate drunk driving

Posted at 3:59 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 10:25:30-04

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a nonprofit that works to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking. One woman in South Florida affected by an impaired crash in 2009, continues to make it her priority to raise both awareness and funds to eliminate drunk and drugged driving.

“Drunk driving accounts for 1/3 of traffic deaths every year in this country,” said Heather Geronemous with MADD.

Drunk driving is the number one cause of deaths on our roadways.

“840 people were killed in Florida by drunk drivers in 2020. In Broward County alone, there were 279 impaired crashes and we lost 27 lives last year right here in our county,” added Heather.

According to Heather, over 10,000 people are killed by drivers under the influence. That’s 29 people killed a day.

MADD was founded by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Today, it’s the nation’s largest nonprofit working to eliminate driving under the influence.

“All of the proceeds from Walk like MADD and MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale stays here in Broward County to support victims 24/7 and also to do our prevention programming, which is also free of charge,” she said Heather.

Heather lost her father to a drunk driver in 2009.

“My father was crossing Brickell on foot and Richard Anthony blew a red light, struck my father, and continued to drive when my father was thrown 75 feet and died in the middle of the street,” she said.

After her father's death, Heather founded Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash Fort Lauderdale in 2011 and has since then continually chaired the event.

“[With] A very small team of MADD [and] a very small team of dedicated volunteers, we started a 5K walk and run that has now raised over $2.5 million in our community,” she said.

Heathers motivation to end driving under the influence has inspired others like Maggie Gunther.

“I lost a family member to cancer and had done some volunteer work in that area just as a tribute to my sister who had passed away. Meeting Heather at that time, seeing how she was doing something similar and trying to give back and trying to make a difference and turning her grief into a positive, that was very inspiring to me,” said Maggie.

“You either let it defeat you or you use it. If you use it and turn your pain into purpose and you think about how your lessons can impact someone else, maybe they can save a life or maybe they can bring somebody a meal that day. You have no idea the impact that you can make on someone else when you think about what’s hard for you is probably hard on someone else,” said Heather.

This year families can choose to join the 5K in-person or virtually. It’s taking place at Huizenga Plaza in Fort Lauderdale on April 25th. You can find the link to register or donate here.