DENVER (CBS4)– Thanksgiving is just a few days away and, for some Colorado families, the holidays are an especially difficult time of year. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Colorado hosts a candlelight vigil every year to help support those families and remember their loved ones.

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This year, that support is needed more than ever.

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Despite the coronavirus pandemic keeping more people home this year, the number of Coloradans killed by impaired drivers is up. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, there’ve been 147 deaths as of the end of September compared to 132 last year that time. In October alone, 15 more people were killed.

“To see things going in the wrong direction in the midst of all the other things we have going on right now, it’s… I don’t really quite know how to make sense of it other than we’re going to keep working at it,” says Fran Lanzer, Executive Director of MADD Colorado.

This weekend kicks off MADD’s “Tie One On For Safety” campaign. More than 40 law enforcement agencies are participating. They’re raising awareness by displaying red magnetic ribbons on their patrol cars and stepping up DUI enforcement with increased patrols.

Lanzer says if people are going to drink or do pot, just don’t drive. It’s that simple, he says, and yet the impact so profound.

“If everybody does that, we can end drunk driving tomorrow. No more fatalities, no more tragedies, no more empty seats at the Thanksgiving table,” said Lanzer.

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Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are all hard for Clara Shelton. Five years ago this week, her 18-year-old brother was coming home from the mountains with friends from CU Boulder they were hit head-on by a drunk driver who, State Patrol says, was going 100 mph with a blood alcohol twice the legal limit.

“We know the decision that driver made was not something he had to do,” said Shelton.

Shelton’s brother Sam was pulled from the wreckage and spent 10 weeks in a coma, but never woke up. In her pain, Shelton found purpose as a volunteer with MADD Colorado.

“I needed to channel my energy into something that felt like it was contributing to other families not having to go through this.”

Her pain, she says, could have been easily been prevented, “I feel like we need a culture shift, we need everybody to agree that when there’s a crime that’s so easily preventable,e we all take steps to be responsible citizens and not do it.”

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(credit: Clara Shelton)

MADD is one of the largest victims’ services organizations in the country and its services are free and 24-7. If you need support or would like a magnetic red ribbon for the Tie One On for Safety campaign, call 1-877-MADD-HELP.

Shaun Boyd