Madd Leader Still Feels Pain Of Drunken Driving

November 24, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

When Kimberly Schaffel sits in the same position for a long time, her legs become stiff and she has difficulty moving them. The pain brings a vivid reminder of when she was struck by a car operated by a drunken driver 14 years ago.

On Christmas Eve in 1977, Schaffel was on her way to a holiday party when her car ran out of gasoline near the Arlington Park racetrack in Chicago. As she poured fuel into the car, another car pulled from the racetrack lot and barreled toward Schaffel.

The vehicle careened into her car, the impact of the collision tearing Schaffel's car in half and throwing the 20-year-old woman through the air.

In the end, she suffered two broken femurs, a broken knee and nerve damage in her foot. She spent two months in the hospital and needed physical therapy for years.

Schaffel, now 34 and living in Forest Hill, considers herself lucky, noting that national statistics show that two of every five people are involved in alcohol-related accidents.

"As I meet more and more people with relatives who've been killed, I'm getting scared," Schaffel said, noting that she regularly drives close to the right shoulder of roads to avoid head-on collisions.

Today, the Forest Hill resident is spreading the word about alcohol-related accidents through Harford's satellite group of Mothers Against Drunk Driving's northern Maryland chapter. Schaffelbecame the group's new coordinator last month.

With the holiday season approaching -- a season that police say often brings more drunken drivers onto the roads -- MADD is gearing up for a campaign to educate Harford residents how they can prevent drunken driving. Called the Red Ribbon Campaign, it starts Dec. 3.

The campaign encourages motorists to tie red ribbons onto their vehicles to increase awareness of the danger of drinking and driving.

MADD expects to distribute 40,000 ribbons through the county's schools, libraries, post offices, convenience stores, restaurants and police departments, Schaffel said. In addition, the county will put the red ribbons on its 600 vehicles.

The project is one of MADD's priority campaigns to stop drunken driving. Throughout the year, the group also organizes assembliesat the county's schools, sets up information booths at community fairs and shopping malls and offers support to victims of alcohol-related accidents.

The ribbon campaign is being organized by Mary MacKnight of Aberdeen, who formed the county's satellite group in March 1990. MacKnight stepped down as MADD's coordinator earlier this year, but plans to remain active in the organization.

MacKnight decided toform the MADD group after her 20-year-old son, John, was killed whenhis car collided head-on with a vehicle operated by a drunken drivernear Havre de Grace in October 1989.

"You got to do something to get (drunken drivers) off the road -- at least try," says MacKnight, 54, who works as chief of real estate at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"If I can reach one offender or one youngster, that's what is important . . . I wouldn't want this to happen to anyone."

MacKnight saidMADD does not promote abstinence from drinking.

Instead, the group encourages those who choose to drink alcohol to select a designateddriver to take them home after a party or plan to stay overnight at the host's home, MacKnight said.

"I realize (youths) are going to party, but just don't get behind the wheel and drink and drive," she said. "I tell them, 'Don't ever do to their family what's been done to my family.' I stress to these youngsters that it can happen."

Schaffel, who moved to Harford from Cecil County in August, was active in a MADD chapter in Delaware. She said she was "shocked" to find lower awareness about drunken driving in Harford than in Delaware.

Toheighten awareness, MADD plans to increase many of its on-going projects, such as the school assemblies and information booths, Schaffel said. In addition, the group is planning to install a sign outside the state police barracks at Benson that will show motorists how many fatal accidents involved alcohol.

Of the 32 fatal accidents last year in Harford, 10 were caused by drunken drivers, according to state police statistics.

MADD also is lobbying for state legislation that would hold people who serve alcohol responsible for accidents involving their guests. And the group is seeking to eliminate "happy hours" at bars and taverns.

Schaffel said she hopes to give MADD a moreactive role in the community when the 26-member group forms its own county chapter by next spring. She added that she hopes to attract more members, including men and single people.

But the new MADD coordinator said her top goal is making phrases like "Red Ribbon Campaign" and "designated driver" household terms in the county.

She has one reason for this: She wouldn't want what happened to her to happen to anyone.

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