STATEMENT OF Sherry Chapman, Mourning Parents Act (!MPACT) On by jasonpeters


									                                    STATEMENT OF
                    Sherry Chapman, Mourning Parents Act (!MPACT)
                               On the Introduction of the
              Safe Teen And Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act (H.R. 1895)
                         United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.
                                      April 23, 2009

Good morning. I am Sherry Chapman, from Coventry, Connecticut. Six years ago last
December, my son Ryan was killed when the car in which he was riding as a passenger smashed
into several parked vehicles along a winding country road. The teen driver was arrested and
convicted for manslaughter, DUI and multiple other charges. I cannot begin to express to you
the immensity of the loss, the weight of the grief. As a result of this horrific event, I along with
the parents of two other teens killed in separate car crashes within 10 days of Ryan’s death
formed the nonprofit organization, Mourning Parents Act (!MPACT). The mission of !MPACT
is to eliminate tragedies caused by inexperienced drivers through awareness, education and
legislation. We have developed a very powerful teen driving safety presentation that we offer at
no charge. We have reached tens of thousands of teens in the 6 years we have been active, and
based on the testimonials we have received, we know we positively influence teen driving and
riding behavior.

Out of this tragedy, I have also become a strong believer in the power of public policy change so
that others will not have to suffer the untold grief of losing a child – an unspeakable tragedy that
Tom Didone and I both share. Since Ryan’s death I have been working tirelessly in my own state
of Connecticut for stronger laws and better programs to address this teenage public health
epidemic. I know it has made a difference. In 2007, the state of Connecticut convened a teen
driving task force, on which I serve, that has recommended some necessary and vigorous
changes in our state’s graduated driver licensing laws and general teen driving program, and we
are moving forward aggressively on all fronts.

Looking at the patchwork quilt of laws for teen driving throughout the nation, however, compels
me to recommend that it is time for federal legislation to urge and accelerate states to pass
strong, uniform laws. It doesn’t make any sense at all to have different teen driving laws in
every state. The number of teen fatalities, as well as other deaths resulting from crashes
involving teen drivers, is over 7,500 people every year in this country. One death is too many,
but when there are thousands of families, year in and year out, going through what my family has
suffered, and will suffer, it’s time to do whatever we can to reverse the trend.

In the 1980s states across the country had different minimum drinking ages for young people
resulting in what we called “blood borders”. High school students would drive to states that
allowed them to drink and would drive home drunk, frequently ending up in a morgue instead of
their beds. Congress stepped in to pass the National Minimum 21 Drinking Age in 1984
requiring every state to enact a 21 drinking age or be penalized federal-aid highway funds.
Every state acted within 3 years and that law alone has saved over 10,000 young lives. In 1995,
Congress stepped in again to pass a zero tolerance blood alcohol concentration law (BAC)
closing a dangerous loophole in the drinking age law that allowed teen drivers to drink and drive
and only be arrested if they exceeded the adult BAC level. Again, within 3 years every state had
this lifesaving law.

It is time for every state to protect every teen driver no matter where he or she lives. A federal
law is needed to encourage states to adopt the best and strongest laws to protect our teens. That
is why I support H.R. 1895, the STANDUP Act, a congressional action that will lead to state
adoption of these important laws. My family and I will be working with the Saferoads4teens
Coalition and others to see this national law enacted.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak today and convey my support for upgrading teen driving
laws and programs.

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