Jan Withers joined MADD in 1992, after her 15-year-old daughter, Alisa Joy, was killed by an underage drinker who chose to drive after consuming numerous alcoholic beverages. Withers first volunteered by sharing her story and lobbying for tougher legislation — she wanted to make a difference by helping to stop this 100 percent preventable violent crime. Withers actively campaigned to lower the illegal limit of blood alcohol content for drivers from a .10 BAC to a .08 BAC, both on the national level and in her home state of Maryland. She was privileged to be present in the Oval Office when President Clinton signed the federal bill into law in 2000.
Her passion is providing support for other victims and survivors of this violent crime. Before becoming National President in July 2011, Withers served as a victim advocate for MADD Maryland, facilitating a support group for victims, while also participating in the MADD Maryland Operations Council. She joined the MADD National Board of Directors in 2005 and served on numerous committees, including Communications and Branding, Public Policy and Victim Services.
Now as National President, Withers speaks to lawmakers across the country about the importance of legislation requiring ignition interlocks (or “in-car breathalyzers”) for all drunk driving offenders, a key part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. She also advocates for federal legislation that provides research funding for technology that will turn cars into the cure for drunk driving. In addition, Withers continues to raise awareness for MADD’s victim support services—even leading a monthly support group—while also expanding the reach of MADD’s underage drinking prevention programs.
Prior to joining MADD’s Board of Directors, Withers served as Director of Victim Services with the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Colorado Women’s College and has been trained in group facilitation, crisis response, victimization, bereavement and trauma. Withers was born and raised in Colorado. She and her husband reside in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and together they have five surviving children and five grandchildren.
MADD, formed in 1980, was originally incorporated to aid the families of victims and increase public awareness of drunk driving. MADD is a vocal advocate for more frequent, high visibility sobriety checkpoints and has a strong relationship with law enforcement. In the years since MADDs founding, annual alcohol-related traffic fatalities have dropped from an estimated 30,000 in 1980 to fewer than 17,000 in 2005. Key components to MADD’s outreach has been education and victim services on both the national and state/local levels; MADD serves a victim or survivor of drunk driving every ten minutes. There are currently more than 600 chapters nationwide.