Award recipient fights to end drunken driving

It's been 10 years since Carson City resident Jennifer Loretto was slammed into by a drunken driver while crossing Carson Street.

After suffering through a 4-1/2-month coma and nine additional months of hospitalization, Loretto took stock of the damage to her body. Her left side was almost totally paralyzed and she found herself wheelchair-bound.

But immediately Loretto, now 27, thought of the others that might suffer the same fate and decided to do something about it. Thus began her life of service to the cause of ending drunken driving.

Loretto's eight years of speaking as a Mothers Against Drunk Driving representative were recognized Sunday as the organization gave her the national "Difference Maker" award.

"I don't want anyone else to be where I am," she said, explaining her motivation. "We go out and tell people every time they drink and drive they take a chance of injuring someone."

The woman who hit Loretto spent close to a year in prison and has been paying restitution ever since.

Loretto is the vice-president elect of MADD's Lyon County chapter, the only chapter in the state. She speaks regularly with at victim panels and at school presentations throughout Northern Nevada.

She said her interactions with convicted DUI offenders have a particular strong effect.

"We ask them to think about it before they drink," she said. "After that first drink affects you, that's when people make the decision to drive. We want people who drink to give up their keys before the first sip."

After meetings they come up to Loretto and ask her about her experiences.

Loretto said one of her goals as an MADD activist is to get a reduction in the legal drinking limit passed in the Nevada Legislature.

"Every time there is a session we try to get it reduced from .10 blood-alcohol to .08," she said. "But the casinos have all the power in this state and they want to make sure they can keep people drinking so they will keep spending."

The California blood-alcohol standard has been at .08 for years.

After a decade of recovery and relearning seemingly simple tasks like speaking and moving around, Loretto has continued working towards her original goal of working with people.

Despite neurological damage that resulted from the accident, Loretto earned an associate's degree at Western Nevada Community College. She likes working with people and is currently doing work experience in pursuit of that goal.

WHO: Jennifer Loretto

WHAT: National "Difference Maker" award recipient

WHERE: On the Web at


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