MADD Convention

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The president of Mothers Against Drunk Driver says there is no symbolism behind the group holding its annual convention this year in New Orleans, which is known for drinking and partying.

Wendy Hamilton says MADD will focus particularly on underage drinking. A report released this week and sponsored by the Institute of Medicine said underage drinking is a significant factor in traffic fatalities, suicide, violent crimes and academic failure, costing the nation an estimated $53 billion annually.

The convention has brought to New Orleans about 700 MADD participants, most of them volunteers, from 47 states and several countries.

Since arriving, many of them have been or will be spending time at phone banks. Hamilton says they're calling state and federal lawmakers as part of a campaign to get more government money to pay for enforcement of underage drinking laws and for educational programs aimed at children, parents and those who sell alcohol to the public.

Last year, about 17,000 people died in vehicle wrecks blamed on drunk drivers.

Peggy Batey is the executive director of the Alabama chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.