Mathew Angelillo was the kind of kid you would see in a teen movie. He was handsome, a star lacrosse player, prom king and about to start college at the United States Air Force Academy.
All of that changed when a car he was riding in that was being driven by a drunk driver crashed at over 100 miles per hour, killing him. Marianne Angelillo, Matthew’s mother, said the mindset that led to her son’s death is all too common.
“That invincible mode where nothing is going to happen to me,” she said. “It’s just a short ride home, I trust this friend and no good decision really can be made under the influence.”
A program called STOP DWI is trying to make sure that no one else goes through the type of pain inflicted upon the Angelillos.
STOP DWI stands for “Special Traffic Operations Program for Driving While Impaired.” It is a statewide program whose goal is reducing road deaths involving drugs and alcohol.
The organization tries to do this through educational programs like victim panels. These panels allow people who were directly affected by drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol to tell their stories.
Barry Weiss, the program coordinator for Onondaga County, said the goal is to educate people to the point where they have a plan.
“Seeing that people have the awareness of ‘I’m not getting behind the wheel,'” he said. “The awareness of ‘I need to make a conscious decision before we go out who is going to drive home.'”
Research shows that alcohol-related crashes are down in recent years and Marianne Angelillo said she thinks that can be attributed to attitudes about drinking and driving.
“There is just no excuse for drinking and driving anymore because our culture has come up against it in a big way,” she said.
STOP DWI Onondaga County suggests that people either make plans with friends or use ride-sharing services like Lyft or Uber to be sure they can have fun safely.