Battling drunken driving Heather Metzger: Hurt by her father's fatal addiction, student is determined that others not fall prey

Bright Lights

December 14, 1998

DRIVEN IS the only way to describe Heather Metzger. The 21-year-old University of Maryland student has dedicated her life to fighting drug abuse. The anti-drug program she designed for younger children, "Drug Free Me," is a model that schools may want to emulate. Her hard work as a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Howard County recently earned her the county's "Service to Youth" Volunteer of the Year Award.

The Millersville woman says she's driven by the childhood she never had. Her father was a heroin addict and alcoholic. At age 38, drunk and high on drugs, John Metzger ran a stop sign and collided with a minivan. He died a day later. That was four years ago. Ms. Metzger refused to let grief consume her. Instead she went to work, becoming an active crusader against substance abuse.

She has written letters to legislators, asking them to strengthen drunken driving laws. She has designed an Internet site detailing the dangers of drunken driving. At prom time, she organized a campaign to insert drunken driving statistics into the pockets of rental tuxedos. She gives speeches about substance abuse, talks to repeat offenders and counsels young people.

All that, and she still finds time to get her school work done.

Ms. Metzger, a runner-up for the Miss Maryland crown this year, was also honored by the Heart of America Foundation, a Washington-based voluntarism group that asked her to be one of 15 ambassadors nationwide.

It is not uncommon for children of substance abusers to fall into that lifestyle or to have it drag them down. Ms. Metzger's unflagging work should inspire anyone searching to make something good from something bad.

Bright Lights spotlights people who make a difference in the quality of life in this area. It appears periodically in this column.

Pub Date: 12/14/98

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