Mothers Against Drunk Driving

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Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a nonprofit organization with more than 600 chapters nationwide. MADD seeks to find effective solutions to the problems of drunk driving and underage drinking, while also supporting those persons whose relatives and friends have been killed by drunk drivers. MADD has proven to be an effective organization, successfully Lobbying for tougher laws against drunk drivers.

MADD was founded by a small group of California women in 1980 after 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed by a hit-and-run driver who had previous drunk driving convictions. Although the offender was sentenced to two years in prison, the judge allowed him to serve time instead in a work camp and a halfway house. Candy Lightner, the victim's mother, worked to call attention to the need for more appropriate, vigorous, and equitable actions on the part of law enforcement and the courts in response to alcohol-related traffic deaths and injuries. Lightner and a handful of volunteers campaigned for tougher laws against impaired driving, stiffer penalties for committing crimes, and greater awareness about the seriousness of driving drunk.

As the California group drew public attention, other individuals who had lost relatives or who had been injured by drunk drivers formed local chapters. Beginning in 1995, MADD embarked on a five-year plan to reduce the proportion of alcohol-related traffic fatalities by 20 percent by the year 2000. This "20 by 2000" campaign was a comprehensive approach that embraced both previous positions and goals and new objectives. Five main areas are addressed: youth issues, enforcement of laws, sanctions, self-sufficiency, and responsible marketing and service.

By 1997 MADD membership had grown to three million people, making it the largest victim-advocate and anti-drunk-driving organization in the United States and the world. In addition to local chapters, MADD has state offices in 29 states. Coordination of the organization is handled by a national headquarters staff of approximately 60 individuals located in Irving, Texas, who direct training, seasonal and ongoing education and awareness programs, national fund-raising, media campaigns, and federal and state legislative activities.

Also in 1997, MADD sponsored the first National Youth Summit to Prevent Underage Drinking. The summit was attended by 435 teens representing each of the U.S. congressional districts. In 1998, with support from MADD members, "Zero Tolerance" legislation was passed in all 50 states.

Youth issues include enforcement of the 21-year age requirement for purchasing and consuming alcohol, Zero Tolerance for underage drivers who drink, and limits on advertising and marketing of alcoholic beverages to young people.

MADD also endorses the use of sobriety checkpoints by law enforcement and lowering the blood alcohol count for drunk driving to .08 percent. As for sanctions, MADD advocates administrative revocation of the licenses of drunk drivers, the confiscation of license plates and vehicles, progressive sanctions for repeat offenders, and mandatory confinement for repeat offenders. The organization wants drunk drivers to pay for the cost of the system that arrests, convicts, and punishes them. Funding for enforcement through fines, fees, and other assessments will make this system self-sufficient. Finally, MADD wants businesses that serve alcohol to be more vigorous in preventing customers from becoming intoxicated. MADD seeks the end of "happy hours" and other promotions that encourage irresponsible drinking.

In 2000, MADD observed its twentieth anniversary with the slogan "Twenty years of making a difference!" The organization noted that annual deaths from drinking and driving have decreased from approximately 28,000 in 1980 to 16,068 in 2000. MADD also pointed out that preliminary statistics showed that the percentage of alcohol-related fatal traffic crashes had declined from 57 percent in 1982 to 38 percent in 2000. In 2002 MADD reported that 34 states and the District of Columbia had passed laws making it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol count of more than 0.08.

Further readings

MADD. Available online at <www.madd.org> (accessed July 28, 2003).

Cross-references

Driving Under the Influence (DUI); Drunkard; Drunkenness.