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A Patriot Ledger series: Summary | PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | UPDATES

Melanie's Story

A first-hand story from the grandfather of 13-year-old victim Melanie Powell
Memories of Melanie: A photo slideshow


State ranked among the worst in nation
Quincy judge was among first to take a hard line


TIMELINE: How Massachusetts drunken driving law has changed
Alcohol's causes and effects
How local and state courts treat repeat drunken drivers
Busiest courts in state for drunken driving arraignments

The cost of drunken driving

Massachusetts fails compared with other states
Death toll from drunken driving

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Marshfield man, Ledger given awards by MADD

— ANAHEIM, Calif.

Ron Bersani of Marshfield received an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving at its annual national meeting on Saturday.

Bersani led the campaign to pass Melanie’s Bill, a key to the state’s crackdown on repeat drunken drivers, after his 13-year-old granddaughter, Melanie Powell, was killed by a repeat drunken driver in 2003.

MADD also honored The Patriot Ledger with its 2006 Award for Excellence in print journalism, recognizing the paper’s coverage of the campaign to pass Melanie’s Law.

This is the second time in three years that MADD has given the Ledger its top media award.

For his efforts, Bersani received the Jean Moorhead Duffy Award for legislative initiative.

“It’s awesome,” Bersani said. “It just means what we did with Melanie’s Law was recognized as an important achievement for Massachusetts. It’s really overwhelming.”

Bersani, the executive director of the Talking Information Center - a reading service for the blind, said his campaign to stop drunken driving started in January 2003, when he and his family attended a middle school assembly in Melanie’s honor.

Seeing all the children, Bersani said he had to do something to prevent future tragedies.

“We just felt like we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t work to make sure what happened to us won’t happen to another family,” he said.

It took countless letters and meetings with elected officials to get the law approved, he said, and at times it seemed he would fail.

However, on Oct. 28, 2005, Bersani was standing next to Gov. Mitt Romney as he signed Melanie’s Bill into law.

There is more work to do, Bersani said, but the state has made great strides in the last year.

“We had a long way to go to catch up,” Bersani said. “We’re probably not number one in the nation, but we have come a long way.”

With a series of stories over five months last year, the Ledger chronicled the passage of Melanie’s Bill.

In 2004, the paper was recognized for “Driving to Endanger,” a series on repeat drunken drivers.

The Ledger’s entry included a four-part series written by Bersani, on his family’s ordeal.


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