BUELLTON, Calif. - A Santa Maria woman is using her painful past to help other victims of drunken drivers.
Dawnette Smith lost her sister Michelle, 28, in a deadly DUI crash on Highway 101 in Santa Maria in 2008.
"She was beautiful. Amazing. Had such a giving heart," recalled Smith.
Smith shared the heartbreaking story about the day her sister died during a recognition ceremony put on by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"I could hear my mother inside weeping. I can't explain the pain I could hear in her cry," Smith said.
Smith said she couldn't let go of what happened.
"It's so senseless. I had to do something, to give a sense of purpose to this because if not, it's for nothing."
That's why Smith became a victim's advocate for MADD.
"I wanted to speak out, to make a difference and prevent this from happening to someone else," said Smith.
Each year, MADD honors law enforcement officers across the state for their work to keep drunken drivers off the roads.
Silas Miers is the Program Director for MADD.
"Every time they take a drunk driver off the road, they are potentially preventing a tragedy from happening," said Miers.
The organization started 30 years ago by a woman whose daughter was killed in a drunken driving accident. Since then, other victims have joined forces to campaign for tougher laws.
"We talk a lot about what MADD's done to change the laws, but it's also been very successful at changing attitudes. We no longer, as a society, see drunk driving as an acceptable behavior, like it was 30 years ago," explained Miers.
If you'd like to learn more about the MADD victim's advocacy program go to: http://www.madd.org/local-offices/ca/victim-services.html