Barnes, Daggett, Shuler Making a Difference

Sheriff BJ Barnes, Attorneys David Daggett and Griff Shuler

Sheriff BJ Barnes, Attorneys David Daggett and Griff Shuler

Every day, newspapers, television, and the internet are awash with bad news. Even worse, there seems to be nothing we can do to make the bad news go away.

We can’t stop terrorism, we can’t escape racism, and we don’t have a cure for cancer. But if you look beyond the headlines, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that one person really can make a difference in preventing or solving some of our most serious problems. While hosting “Triad Today” over the past fourteen years, I’ve come to know some of those special people who make a difference every single day, and I’m particularly proud of three individuals who have dedicated their time and considerable energies to prevent drunk driving. They are Guilford County sheriff BJ Barnes, and attorneys David Daggett and Griff Shuler.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, each year over 10 million people drive while under the influence, and almost half of all drivers who are killed in crashes had alcohol in their system. Moreover, one third of people convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders. Shockingly, over 300,000 incidents of drunk driving occur each and every day, and every 51 minutes, someone dies in a drunk driving-related car crash.

Five years ago, sheriff BJ Barnes created a task force to reduce drunk driving in Guilford County. Cooperating agencies included the Greensboro police department, High Point police department, UNCG police, and the Guilford sheriff’s department. Late last month, M.A.D.D. presented Barnes with the “Heart of M.A.D.D.” award, accompanied by a glowing citation which stated, “He teamed up with sheriffs across the State and local police departments to continue his education efforts, focusing on the dangers of underage drinking.”

According to M.A.D.D., the award is given to individuals who, “embody our mission to eliminate drunk driving, support the victims of violent crime, and prevent underage drinking.” Certainly BJ meets and exceeds those criteria. For example, as the Greensboro News and Record’s Kate Elizabeth Queram reported, Barnes has also been working closely with the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission
and its “Talk it Out” campaign, which encourages parents to talk with their kids about alcohol and drug use.

Too often our law enforcement officers only get to respond to crimes after they’ve been committed, but M.A.D.D.’s recognition of my friend BJ Barnes should serve as an inspiration to public servants and private citizens, to be pro-active in preventing drunk driving, and the fatalities they can cause.

About twenty miles up the road from the Guilford County Sheriff’s headquarters, are the offices of Daggett Shuler, attorneys at law. David Daggett and Griff Shuler have seen the tragic effects of car crashes involving alcohol, so it’s not surprising that they decided to sponsor an area wide campaign designed to prevent young people from drinking and driving.

David and Griff recently appeared on Triad Today to taIk about “Safe Sober Prom Night”.

David: This is the 27th year of the Safe Sober Prom Night program, and it has become the largest and longest running privately funded initiative of its type in the United States. What it is, is students sign a pledge card not to drink or use drugs on prom night.

Jim: How much of a problem is teenage drinking and driving?

Griff: Car crashes are the number one cause of death among teenagers, and of those car crashes, one quarter are directly related to underage drinking. That’s how bad the problem is.

Jim: What area do you cover?

Griff: We visit 47 high schools in nine counties, and get students to sign the pledge, then we give them a free t-shirt.

David: But it’s more than just “don’t drink or use drugs on prom night.” It has become a program of leadership, guidance, and direction for young people.

One student who took the pledge this year is 17-year-old Nestor Gutierrez Flores, a senior at West Forsyth high school. Nestor also designed this year’s commemorative “Safe Sober Prom Night” t-shirt.

Jim: Nestor, why did you want to take the pledge?

Nestor: The media promotes that alcoholis a way to have fun. Well, my design breaks free from that. We don’t need alcohol to have fun. Teenagers can have fun without drinking.

Over the years, David and Griff have made it possible for over a half million teenagers to take the pledge, and they have awarded nearly $50,000 to schools with the highest percentage of participation.

Griff: It’s unbelievable. We go out to schools to set up and give out t-shirts, and when the bell rings you better watch out because all of the students are going to run out and sign the pledge, and want the t-shirts.

David: Proms will be going on from now through the middle of May, so students can still take the pledge. We’re coming to a high school near you!

Griff: The reaction every year at every school is one of excitement, and we just love being a part of it.

Anyone interested in the “Safe, Sober Prom Night” program can visit

For more information about the Guilford County Sheriff’s department, visit

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