Dear Abby:

My 19-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver. Garrett was hit at freeway speed as he got out of a disabled vehicle that had been blocked by a flatbed tow truck with its lights flashing.

The drunk driver went around the tow truck and never slowed down. He already had a prior DUI from seven years ago. From my research, the laws are too easy on these people. Offenders are getting five years, often reduced to one or two or community service, for taking an innocent life. The vehicle is their weapon. This should be second-degree murder, not manslaughter.

How can we get the laws changed? Whom do we contact to get results? It won't bring my wonderful, loving son back, but these verdicts are nothing but a slap on the wrist to the drunk drivers, and a slap in the face to families who lose their children. My son was my best friend. He had his whole life ahead of him. This man took it away because he made the choice to drink and drive. Please, Abby, help me make a difference.

Grieving Mother, Santa Rosa, Calif.

I offer my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your son. One way to channel your grief would be to join a community of other grieving parents who are also determined to put more teeth into the punishment meted out to repeat offenders.

I recently became a member of the advisory board of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It is a nonprofit, grassroots organization that's a leader in the fight against drunk driving and underage drinking. Because of MADD, more than 2,300 anti-drunk driving laws have been passed, public awareness has increased, and thousands of drunk-driving victims have received assistance.

With their help, you can work within your own community to change the laws regarding repeat offenders in your state. The toll-free number is 800-438-6233, and the Web site is Call and you will receive the support you need.

Dear Abby:

I have two sisters-in-law. I'm the one who was chosen to write to you. Our mother-in-law, "Lydia," has always treated us like we are women who just happen to live with her sons. She drops over whenever she feels like it, "borrows" whatever suits her pleasure, even if the items belong to us, and refers to the grandchildren as her sons' children.

I have tried explaining to her that we both work, and it takes two incomes to accumulate what we have, and her comments are hurtful. However, knowing she has hit a nerve whenever she drops by uninvited, she makes a point of commenting to me that I'm driving her son's car, using his vacuum cleaner, or on how I'm raising his kids. It's infuriating.

Our husbands make excuses that she's old and doesn't know any better, or say, "That's just Mom." I know you're going to say they have no backbone. So how should we wives handle it? Do we just leave when she shows up? After 20 years of enduring this, we've decided we've earned the right to be just as rude as she is.

Had It in Missouri

The first thing the three of you should do is find a marriage counselor who gives group discounts, and visit the therapist together with your husbands. Ideally, the ones to get Lydia to shape up are her sons. If that proves to be too much for "the boys" to handle, then it's up to you to create some boundaries. Do not be rude -- be firm. When she "drops by," greet her with a smile and say, "This isn't a good time to visit. Your son isn't here and I'm busy." Then shut the door and go about your business.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate