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Responsibility.org Honors Traffic Safety Leaders

Each year, Responsibility.org recognizes leaders and agents of change who, through their work, have made a significant contribution to the field. The Kevin E. Quinlan Award for Excellence in Traffic Safety is the highest honor our organization bestows and is reserved for individuals who have demonstrated both commitment and passion for reducing impaired driving and saving lives. This year’s award recipients are individuals who strive to make our roadways and communities safer. Through their innovative approaches to developing programming or improving practice, or advocating for important changes to laws, these awardees are leading the way in our shared mission of eliminating impaired driving. Join us in celebrating their contributions and learn more about their amazing and life-saving work:

Judge Robert Anchondo, El Paso DWI Court

One of the country’s long-tenured DWI court judges, Judge Anchondo is responsible for the establishment of the El Paso DWI/Drug Court Intervention and Treatment Program. In operation since 2004, the mission of the court is to reduce recidivism among alcohol and drug offenders and to enhance public safety through a cost-effective and integrated continuum of care. As a result of his court’s high standard of practice, it was designated as one of four Academy DWI Courts by the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC), making it a model program for other perspective court teams to learn from and replicate. Judge Anchondo is both a leader and visionary in the field of treatment courts because he does not accept the status quo. His tremendous expertise is the reason why Responsibility.org appointed him to our Judicial Advisory Board and we rely on his insight to steer our organization in the right direction when it comes to advocating for DUI system improvements.

In addition to establishing multiple partnerships with community agencies and academic institutions, Judge Anchondo has also been instrumental in enhancing the continuum of services available to impaired drivers within this county, including those offenders who do not qualify for his treatment court. Recently, Judge Anchondo led an effort to expand pretrial services with a focus on making more interventions available to impaired driving defendants. He is also at the forefront of adapting the DWI Court model to address the unique needs of his community in south Texas. Unlike other Academy Courts, much of Judge Anchondo’s participants are of Hispanic heritage/descent and, as such, require services provided in Spanish. His desire to address this issue led him to facilitate the translation of the Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS) into Spanish. The translation could not have happened without him and, as a result, Judge Anchondo’s DWI Court will be the first program in the nation to utilize the Spanish versions of CARS in early 2020.

Judge Anchondo has steadfastly remained committed to not only saving lives, which is an undeniable outcome of his DWI Court, but also changing the lives of his court participants and their families. His work and leadership strengthen the community of El Paso as a whole and this has a broader ripple effect throughout Texas and ultimately, the country.

Meah Ezykowsky, Pennsylvania SADD and pedestrian safety advocate

Meah Ezykowsky and her family were impacted by impaired driving when Meah was only 8 years old when her father was killed by a drunk driver. Meah grew up leading her peers in the fight against impaired driving and underage drinking. She was Pennsylvania SADD Student of the Year, president of her school's SADD chapter and she served on SADD’s Student Leadership Council.

A little over two years ago, Meah’s life took a sudden turn when she began having severe headaches and other symptoms that revealed a massive brain tumor resulting in emergency surgery and a very long road to recovery. Meah and her family have spent the last few years fighting a different fight to shrink her tumor and learn how to navigate a new normal which has included relearning life skills. Meah’s memory was impacted and she is now legally blind. We were honored to meet her family while presenting the award to Meah at the 2019 Pennsylvania Stop DUI Association annual meeting and awards dinner in October. Though Meah couldn’t recall her inspirational leadership through her work with SADD, we told her all about it. Meah now advocates for the safety of blind pedestrians and is a budding artist. You can keep up with Meah on her blog. Here’s a photo of Meah and her mom Michelle admiring her Traffic Safety Award.

Alberto Gutier, Director of Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety

Alberto during his early days in law enforcement
Alberto in his later years overseeing Arizona highway safety efforts

Alberto Gutier has spent much of his life working to keep people safe. As the Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Arizona, Alberto has managed one of the most innovative and effective impaired driving programs in the country. Arizona is one of the nation’s leaders on implementing legislation and innovative programs to address impaired driving and under Alberto’s leadership, many important strategies have received the support and funding necessary to be actualized and become common practice. He has been involved in the passage of key legislation including mandatory ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, aggravated DUI laws (extreme DUI in AZ), felony DUI for repeat offenders, etc.

Anyone who knows Alberto is quick to realize that he is a staunch supporter of law enforcement and through his leadership and funding, many important programs have been established in Arizona. This includes the creation and expansion of an electronic warrant system (learn more about the Phoenix PD system here) to secure timely blood draws, and the creation of a landmark law enforcement phlebotomy program. This latter program has been replicated by law enforcement agencies in several other states and Arizona is looked to as the gold standard in the timely and efficient obtainment of blood draws in impaired driving cases. This is especially important in cases where drug impairment is suspected as delays in collecting blood draws can affect case outcomes. During Alberto’s long tenure with the Office of Highway Safety, he has also supported effective high visibility enforcement campaigns, one of the nation’s most robust training and certification programs for law enforcement, and the establishment of DWI courts. Through his leadership, Arizona has an established legislative and programmatic infrastructure to deal with impaired driving as it evolves over time to include alcohol, drugs and a combination of substances.

Dr. Curt Harper, Toxicology Discipline Chief at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences

Dr. Curt E. Harper has over 11 years of experience as a forensic yoxicologist. He was appointed Toxicology Discipline Chief for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS) in 2012 and in this role he oversees technical operations, method development and validation, and the quality assurance/quality control program, manages productivity, serves as training coordinator, and develops and maintains standard operating procedures.

A leader in the field of toxicology, particularly in the area of impaired driving, Dr. Harper holds board certification as a Fellow of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology and participates as an active member of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) Drugs and Driving Committee. As an Alabama Peace Officer, Dr. Harper has been certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) since 2015 and acts as a member of the Alabama Impaired Driving Prevention Council. Dr. Harper has testified on the effects of alcohol and other drugs in over 175 criminal or civil cases during his tenure in Alabama and Virginia.

Most recently, he oversaw a multi-year oral fluid pilot program to validate the use of oral fluid screening in the field by trained law enforcement officers as well as oral fluid confirmation testing at ADFS. Upon analysis of data from the pilot, it was found that the use of roadside oral fluid screening combined with either blood or oral fluid confirmation testing has the ability to improve impaired driving investigations and potentially identify more drug and polysubstance-impaired drivers. Following the successful pilot study, Alabama became the first state to transition to a permanent oral fluid program. ADFS opted to create a program that utilizes booth oral fluid screening at roadside and evidentiary confirmation testing using a separate oral fluid sample. This groundbreaking program positions Alabama as a leader in impaired driving investigations and at the forefront in the detection of drug and polysubstance-impaired driving. We applaud Dr. Harper for his willingness to innovate and for recognizing the need to develop solutions to a growing impaired driving problem.  

Dimitrios (Jim) Mastoras, Master Police Office with the Arlington Police Department

Jim Mastoras has served in law enforcement for over twenty-two years and is a Master Police Officer in Arlington County, VA. In addition to his longtime leadership on preventing impaired driving, he developed and implemented the first restaurant accreditation program in the U.S. called the Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI) to reduce alcohol-related harm. Using the relationship-based approach, Proactive Alliance, he formed trustful relationships with restaurant owners and managers to improve safety. ARI focuses on effective practices and policies to help restaurants comply with the law and increase economic viability. The strategies he implemented have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice and he authored a Department of Justice COPS Office toolkit titled, The Arlington Restaurant Initiative - A Nightlife Strategy to Improve Safety and Economic Viability, to be used by departments across the country. The program is receiving exposure throughout the nation and Jim will be traveling to various states to educate other communities on how the ARI model can be replicated. More information on the ARI is here and the Safe Night LLC initiative is here.

Brian Swift, Drug-Impaired Driving Victim Advocate

Brian recently joined Responsibility.org and other traffic safety partners at in the Rotunda of the Michigan Capitol building to hold an Impaired Driving Prevention Month press event. We were joined by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist who received an award in recognition of his office’s commitment to end impaired driving and ongoing support of the Michigan oral fluid program.

Brian Swift is a native-Michigander hailing from the Upper Peninsula. In 2013, he tragically lost both of his parents to a drug-impaired driver who tested positive for THC after the logging truck he was driving slammed into Brian’s parents’ car killing both of Brian’s parents. Since that time, Brian has advocated tirelessly – both in Michigan and nationally – for common-sense legislation and technologies that screen drivers at the roadside for drug impairment. His overarching message is that the tragedy that befell his family will, unfortunately, befall other families too, unless legislation is passed to screen for drugs at the roadside and deter drug-impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel in the first place. Following the loss of his parents, Brian contacted Senator Thomas Casperson who introduced Senate Bill 207 and Senate Bill 434 to combat drug-impaired driving by implementing an oral fluid roadside analysis pilot program.

Both bills passed the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate and were signed into law by then-Governor Rick Snyder. Public Act 242 and 243 of 2016, known as the Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law, became effective on September 22, 2016. Since this initial legislative victory, Brian has continued to work tirelessly to make the Michigan program permanent. Given the promising results of the initial five county pilot, in December 2018, the legislature agreed to support the ongoing funding of the program and expand it statewide (Public Act 618). The Michigan State Police continues to oversee the pilot as law enforcement officers from around the state have received training on how to administer the SoToxa oral fluid device. More than 50 agencies and over 100 DREs are involved in the largescale pilot and the hope is that this program will produce a significant amount of data over the course of the coming year. At that point, Michigan should transition from a pilot to a permanent oral fluid program thereby making the use of oral fluid testing a standard component of DUI investigations. All states should look to Michigan’s example and replicate this program thereby ensuring that law enforcement have more tools at their disposal to identify drug and polysubstance-impaired drivers. Read more about Brain’s heartfelt story and motivational advocacy efforts in this USA Today op ed.

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