Mothers Against Drunk Driving say parents, coaches have impact on preventing underage drinking

MIAMI (WSVN) - Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) held an awareness conference in Miami on Thursday morning and focused on preventing underage drinking.

MADD’s conference was held during Alcohol Awareness Month and, this year, the group’s focus is on asking parents of teens involved in sports to have talks about underage drinking and its dangers.

“My father was a world-class athlete,” said Rob Castillo, a MADD representative and sports coach. “He ran at the world level and he recently picked up biking prior to his death.”

Castillo said his father Roberto Castillo was biking when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver 13 years ago.

“It definitely changed my life,” said Castillo.

Castillo said his father’s death motivated him in becoming a teacher and coach. He believes now, more than ever, parents have the power to help shape good habits for their children.

So does MADD representative Helen Witty, who lost her daughter Helen Marie. Marie was roller skating when she was killed by an inebriated driver.

“As the mother of a 16-year-old girl who was killed by a drunk and stoned 17-year-old girl, what I want to do is reach this community,” said Witty.

Witty added that excessive drinking causes more than 4,300 underage deaths per year, and two out of three of those deaths do not involve a vehicle.

This is why Witty said, “Coaches matter. Coaches are a wonderful influence and can be wonderful role models. If these student-athletes know that their coaches do not approve of underage drinking, they’re less likely to be injured, they’re less likely to make those risky decisions.”

“For those of you young children that are interested in sports, even that is affected by drinking,” said Ryder Trauma Center’s Dr. Gabriel Ruiz. “Drinking alcohol and practicing sports decreases your efficiency, increases your chances of injury and makes you more prone to problems.”

According to MADD, 74 percent of teens said their parents are their biggest influencers on their decision to drink while being underaged.

“Our goal is to get the message out there and help as many people as we can so we can spare the pain that we felt,” said Castillo.

MADD says to start having these conversations with kids at 8 years old.

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