WASHINGTON — Police, politicians and citizens who launched a concerted effort to toughen drunk driving laws in Maryland got the help of a veteran of the fight: One of the co-founders of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Cindi Lamb Wiley sat on a bench outside a Maryland Senate committee room, preparing to testify. This wasn’t a new experience for her. She’d been here before, as a young, grieving mother.
“My daughter and I were going to the grocery store on November 10, 1979,” Wiley says. But they never made it to the store. A drunk driver slammed into their pickup truck in on Md. Rt. 26 in Frederick County, shattering both their lives.
Wiley was launched from the truck, smashing through the windshield. Bleeding, and suffering more than 14 broken bones in her lower body, she struggled to understand what happened to her baby girl. Her 5-month-old daughter Laura survived but was left a quadriplegic.
At age 7, she died of complications from her injuries.
Wiley joined forces with another mother, Candace Lightner of California, to form Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, which is now known as Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD.
Wiley says in the decades since the crash that ended her daughter’s life, she’s been able to forgive the man—a repeat drunk driver— who struck her car that night.
Preparing to testify in Annapolis last week, Wiley said she got a lump in her throat as she went through a box of photos of her daughter. “It never goes away. It never resolves completely. But if just being here today can help pass Noah’s Law and save a few more lives, I’m all in.”
Noah’s Law is a bill that’s moving through the Maryland House of Delegates. It would require that anyone convicted of drunk driving be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their car.
There have been several amendments attached to the bill, but supporters say the intent remains intact and that the law has been strengthened. A final vote in the House could come next week. The Senate is considering a similar bill.
In the past, MADD has been criticized for focusing on alcohol of having an almost prohibitionist tone and, in the words of one critic, being “overbearing.”
Wiley disagrees with that characterization. “I’m a reasonable person,” she says. “I like a cold beer on a hot day.” But she says the laws she’s supporting, like the law to expand the use of ignition interlock devices for those convicted of drunk driving, are reasonable. “It seems like a no brainer,” she says.