How the Organization Known As MADD Got Started and the Impact it Has Had on Drunk Driving Today
In May 1980 a young 13 year old girl was hit and killed by a drunk driver in a hit and run as she walked along a sidewalk on her way to a festival. Through the grief of losing her daughter, Candy Lightner immediately took action in trying to find more about the driver that killed her daughter from files at the DMV and information from a Las Vegas DUI attorney and Las Vegas DUI lawyer and if he was a frequent drunk driver. This started the cause that many are aware of today known as MADD which stood for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
With a large amount of grief and anger over her daughter’s death, Candy Lightner along with her friend, Sue LeBron-Green wanted to change not only the laws that seemed ineffective in keeping drunk drivers off the road or from repeating their offense but also in changing the attitude of society that was quite different in the early 1980’s. Back then, driving after consuming alcoholic drinks was not considered a bad thing and something almost everyone did at one time or another. The fight to not only change laws but everyone’s attitude toward something that is considered acceptable was a huge battle for these two mothers.
They started by going to politicians who seemed to be aware of the statistics but took no action to change them. This mother had a compelling story to tell and rather than just tell it, she used horrifying photographs of car crashes that resulted from a drunk driver to try to make those statistics come to life. Not only were they fighting government but also the powerful industries that were more concerned about profit over safety. They seemed like uphill battles but from their grief and passion these two women fought on and on and got many followers to join them in this fight.
In just three years, they proved that their fight and their MADD organization was making a difference with having traffic safety and victims rights legislation passed. The more they fought, the more publicity they got and after only four years from when her daughter was killed, Candy Lightner’s MADD non-profit group had 330 chapters in 47 states. People were tired of losing their loved ones in fatal alcohol related crashes and this group seemed like the way to change it. In 1988, the largest and worst alcohol related crash took place in Kentucky where 24 young people were killed when their church bus was hit by a drunk driver and it burst into flames. The media attention of this horrible event helped MADD’s mission to continue to change not only the laws but the attitude that Americans had toward drinking and driving.
Another thing that MADD felt was important to have changed was the drinking age in the United States. They noticed that the states with lower drinking ages also had a much higher frequency of drunk driving crashes. Because of MADD, traffic fatalities have dropped from 30,000 in 1980 to less than 17,000 today.