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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Mothers Against Drunk Driving is starting its first-ever National Passenger Safety Week as a way to bring awareness to the rise in drunk, drugged, or distracted driving. MADD’s founder is even reaching out to a Madison County mother who recently lost her son.

Jacklynn Stroz lost her son to a drunk driver when the car he was riding in as a passenger hit head-on on Highway 431 near New Hope in Madison County.  

“I’m just trying to deal with the fact that my kid is gone and I’m grieving his loss,” said Stroz.

Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), is aware of Mikey Stroz’s death. She said that she has seen the number of fatalities from impaired or distracted driving rise in Alabama each year.  

“I just want to reach out to her and give her a big hug and I understand how she feels. People are getting a bit careless,” Lightner told News 19.

Lightner says it’s time for passengers to speak up for their safety and the safety of the driver who chose to be reckless and make the selfish choice to drive while impaired or distracted. She’s created the first-ever National Passenger Safety Week to empower passengers through her “We Save Lives” campaign for the final week of January.

Lightner was inspired to inform others of the dangers on the roads after a hit-and-run drunk driver killed her daughter in 1980. 

“It always amazes me when I see these stories and read these stories and I think, what was the passenger doing getting in the car especially when it’s somebody who’s been driving under the influence,” she stated.

Lightner says the initiative is long overdue.  

“You need to let them know right upfront, I value your life, but I really value my own,” Lightner said. “And I don’t want to put either you or myself in a position of killing someone or killing ourselves. So why don’t you let me make the call and take the text or whatever or why don’t we just wait until we get to our destination? It’s not a hard thing to say but you’ll be surprised at how many people are afraid to say it.”

National Passenger Safety Week runs until January 30th. You can find more information here.