On May 3, 1980, 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed by a five-time drunk driving offender who had also been arrested for another alcohol-related hit-and-run just a week earlier. After finding out that the drunk driver probably wouldn’t spend much time in jail, Candace Lightner, Cari’s mother, took took the first step toward changing drunk driving laws by founding a grassroots organization called Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) later that year.
Now the largest non-profit and victim services organization in the nation, MADD aims to stop drunk driving and prevent underage drinking while also providing free support to drunk driving victims, survivors, and their families.
Within four years of its founding, MADD had encouraged Congress to enact a law that stimulated the states to raise the their legal drinking age to 21, which all states did by 1988. In 2000, MADD’s 20th anniversary, the Clinton administration passed a law that stimulated states to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from 0.1 to 0.08. By that same year, drunk driving fatalities had dropped about 40 percent since 1980.
MADD continues to affect drunk driving laws in the U.S. and, as a result, decrease drunk driving fatalities through their Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. Launched in 2006 in response to the over 13,000 people still being killed each year from alcohol-related traffic crashes, the Campaign encourages mandatory ignition interlock installation for all convicted drunk drivers, increased high-visibility law enforcement, and the development of new technologies that will one day stop drunk drivers from starting their car. Since the launch of MADD’s Campaign:
- 18 states now require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers
- All 50 states now have some form of ignition interlock law
- At least four of the states with all-offender ignition interlock laws have cut DUI deaths by over 30 percent
- Drunk driving fatalities have decreased 27 percent since 2006
Over the past 32 years, MADD has saved 300,000 lives from drunk driving. However, 9,878 people were killed in drunk driving-related crashes in 2011. MADD is currently working to decrease this number by at least 5 percent this year.
To learn more about MADD, its history and accomplishments, and the leaders that channeled their grief into a fight against drunk driving, visit www.madd.org.