PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Drunk driving is responsible for the deaths of one person every 45 minutes and that doesn’t include those who are seriously hurt or injured.

Mothers against drunk driving have been spreading the ‘don’t drink and drive message’ for 40 years. Now, they are on a new mission with a new leader, a young woman who survived a head-on crash here in Bay County.

Tess Rowland, the former morning reporter on News 13 this morning has a new job and a new mission.

“So my role in MADD as the National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to share my story, to travel around the country in hopes that I can make a difference and truly create a world of no more victims.”

Rowland was almost killed in May of 2021. She was on her way to work on Back Beach Road in the early morning hours when she was hit head-on by a motorist driving the wrong way. Police say he was intoxicated.

“I remember seeing those bright headlights and then the next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital room and went from being a normal, healthy 22-year-old girl to having extensive injuries on my right side, which resulted in seven surgeries, four plates, 22 screws, and now four large scars.”

She still has pain and expects to have more surgeries in the future. In the meantime, Rowland is taking her experience and turning it around to help others. She wants to make sure no one else is the victim of a distracted or drunk driver.

As national president of MADD Rowland will focus on sharing her story with young people.

“We lose one person to DUI every 45 minutes in this country,” Rowland said. “And the sad reality, too, is that 30% of these fatal crashes involve a driver that’s age 21 to 24. So the reality is the youth needs to be engaged as they are part of creating a solution.”

That means having a plan and doing everything possible to stay safe on the highway.

“We want to create a world of no more victims,” Rowland said. “So what we’re going to be preaching about is the importance of not driving while impaired.”

She added that people need to make a plan and make sure they have a completely sober designated driver.

Rowland says she has plenty of work ahead of her, but she hasn’t forgotten the people who helped her through the long night.

“I mean, I just want to take the moment to also really thank the WMBB community because I would be nothing without them,” Rowland said. “The true reality is that they lifted me up in a time, it was very dark and I didn’t think that I was going to get out of, and without their support, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”

For more on Rowland and her work visit: