RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As prom and graduation seasons ramp up, Mothers Against Drunk Driving North Carolina (MADD-NC) increasing outreach about the dangers of driving while impaired.
MADD-NC has been visiting schools and other community centers to discuss the dangers of drinking and driving and about being a defensive driver.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol is a leading cause of traffic fatalities killing 32 people a day in the United States
Historically, the warmer months bring about an uptick in alcohol-related crashes.
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"You have longer days and, you know, graduation parties, prom, outdoor barbecues, different things that are going on where more people are drinking," said Jennifer Lichtneger, Executive Director for MADD-NC. "So, from the time in fact, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there is an increase and a large increase in fatalities related to impaired driving during that time.
It's so important for them to make a plan before they go out to not get behind the wheel impaired," Lichtneger added.
In North Carolina, 12,264 crashes were alcohol-related in 2021, according to data from the NCDOT. And 374 of those 12,264 crashes were fatal with alcohol being a factor in more than 22% of the traffic fatalities statewide in 2021.
Stephanie Ronan was hit by a drunk driver in September 2018 and had to be cut out of her vehicle and life-flighted.
"I have a rod in my tibia, a rod in my femur. My ribs are plated," Ronan said. "I'm a single parent, the injuries and the disabilities that I have are lifelong.
Ronan is lucky to be alive and now speaks with MADD-NC about that drunk driver's decision as she lives with debilitating injuries from the crash.
"The drunk driver, I found out, was a repeat offender," Ronan said. "Three weeks before he crashed into me, he got a DWI and lost his license. He only got 16 months for my crash.
"Driving impaired is a choice. It's a decision. Plan ahead<" she added. "I'm worried about my kids or myself. It's the other people out there that are driving impaired, and it can impact anyone at any time."