Local woman honored

Published 10:23 am Monday, October 23, 2017

Every 51 minutes someone, somewhere in the United States dies from an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident. That’s roughly 10,306 people each year. One Kentucky woman has made it her life’s mission to fight against impaired driving and stand with the countless who have been affected by it, including herself.

Theresa Martinez — along with 10 other extraordinary heroes throughout the state — received the highly prestigious WLKY Bell Award on Friday evening in Louisville as a result of her incredible contributions to not only her area, but the entire Commonwealth.

A little over five years ago, Martinez experienced the most devastating event a mother could endure when her daughter, Ashley Martinez, was killed in a car crash in which the other driver was highly intoxicated. Since then, Theresa has dedicated much of her life to traveling the state advocating against drunk driving, as well as becoming a frequent MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) volunteer, thus enabling her to give her utmost support for those who have had to go through similar situations.

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“My daughter has become my inspiration. After her death, I believe I summoned the strength to be able to tell her story, and maybe Ashley’s story will cause people to realize the horrid impact that drunk driving has on the entire community,” said Martinez. “Ashley, who was 22 at the time of her death, had her entire life ahead of her, but it was all taken away because someone decided that their joyride was more important than a young woman’s life.“

Along with her volunteer work for MADD and other grief support groups, Martinez also frequently advocates for victims’ rights in courtrooms throughout the state. In fact, she is responsible for legislating the Admission Interlock Bill in her home city of Louisville, which requires anyone previously convicted of drunk driving to install a device on their vehicle that picks up their breath and will not start if over the legal alcohol limit.

Above all, Martinez hopes to prevent as many future impaired driving-related fatalities as she possibly can by sharing her story at numerous high schools and Victim Impact Sessions (which DUI offenders are required to take), in hopes that those listening will take her message to heart and comprehend the horrid effects their actions could have.

Upon receiving the Bell Award, Republic Bank Foundation provided each recipient with the opportunity to donate $500 to any charity of their choice. Martinez chose to give her donation to the MADD foundation she regularly volunteers for, which helps countless mothers of impaired driving victims deal with their loss.

Not only do impaired driving-related fatalities affect the person whose life was so unfairly taken, but also their family and friends, and the family and friends of the one who caused the incident, as they will be forced to live with the fact that their loved one committed such an act. Not to mention the offender themself, who is likely to be haunted by the occurrence for the remainder of their life.

“Drunk driving really causes a huge ripple effect, because it impacts the lives of so many people, all because someone made a bad choice that could have been 100 percent preventable,” said Martinez.