The Idaho Women’s Journal was invited to attend a meet-and-greet event sponsored by Idaho Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). It was at the Owyhee Hotel where the National President of MADD, Jan Winthers, turned on her charm.
Sitting back to observe, Winthers allowed no strangers in the room, and she gently but confidently approached. Winthers was engaging, attentive, and curious. This is probably the reason she now holds the mantle of National President. She has her own personal story, “…and every National President does” she said.
Winthers suffered her own tragedy. In 1992 she lost her own 15 year old daughter, Alisa, when an intoxicated 17 year old young man struck Alisa’s car. It is unnecessary violent acts like this that has led Winthers to accept her new post as National President. After 20 years of serving at all levels of MADD, today she has a national vision on the horizon.
While Winthers is National President she would like to see awareness. Her target areas are with victim services and the Alcohol Ignition Interlock system (AII).
Victim services offers many outreach programs including court support. After a tragic accident there is a court process, and many families stagger legally after a loss. However, MADD lends support. MADD walks families through standard court practices, what to expect, and assists in understanding legal rights. The national organization wraps their long arms around local offices with training, support, and local visits.
The Alcohol Ignition Interlock system is another pet focus of Winthers. This device attaches to a car. The driver then blows into the breathalyzer. If traces of alcohol are detected, the car fails to start. “75 percent of offenders will drive anyway” said Winthers, “and that’s why we need this and even more enhanced systems.”
New Mexico was the first state to initiate the use of the AII system. There has been a 40 percent decline in fatalities directly related to the use of this equipment. Winthers said there is more to come, but her hope is to raise awareness against creating more victims. There are 17 states on board using the AII system, and she’s hoping Idaho will be next.
The IWJ would like to thank Idaho MADD for their kind invitation to attend.