MADD stands for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The organization was founded in California in 1980 by Candy Lightner after Cari, her thirteen-year-old daughter, was killed by a drunk driver while walking along a road in her neighborhood. The man behind the wheel had been on a three-day drinking binge. He had three prior drunk driving convictions and had been recently released on bail for a hit-and-run crash when driving while drunk. This was his fifth offense in four years. The police told Candy that the man would probably not even spend time in jail for what he had done. Candy's rage at this news prompted her to form Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, which became known as MADD.
A few months later, Candy met Cindi Lamb. In Maryland in 1979, Cindi had been driving to the grocery store with Laura, her five-and-a-half-month-old daughter, when they were hit by a drunk driver. Initially, the doctors didn't think Laura would live, but she pulled through and, as a result of the crash, Laura became the youngest quadriplegic in the United States. Though she survived, she continued to have medical problems and eventually died in 1986 at the age of seven. Immediately following the accident, Cindi was told by the police that the driver of the car that hit them was drunk -- it was 11 o'clock in the morning. This was the driver's fifth drunk-driving offense.
The two grieving mothers met when Cindi Lamb wanted to start a chapter of MADD in Maryland. As a grass-roots organization, the group had started out with little funding, but eventually, in October of 1980, Candy and Cindi held a national press conference. There, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., they did not merely talk about the consequences of drunk driving, they showed pictures and told their stories. Funding began to trickle in and the group got to work.
Due to the tireless efforts of many people in MADD chapters all over the US, traffic safety laws have been passed and victims' rights have been addressed through legislation. Between 1980 and 1994, fatalities from drunk driving had decreased by 43 percent. Volunteers from the organization do a number of things: help one another make their way through the criminal justice system, help one another mourn the loss of loved ones, and work toward trying to spare others the pain they have experienced due to drunk driving.
MADD members campaigned to raise the legal drinking age to 21 nationwide, and the Uniform Drinking Age Act was signed into law by President Reagan in 1984. Although states can still maintain a lower legal drinking age, they risk losing federal transportation funds if they do. The lowering of the BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) level to 0.08% as the threshold for a criminal offense of drunk driving, another MADD campaign effort, was signed into law by President Clinton in October 2000. Here again, states would either have to pass relevant laws or risk losing federal funding for highways.
One of the programs run by MADD is their death notification training course. Members of the organization have helped thousands of people involved in drunk-driving accidents over the years, and they have developed an awareness of the hazards involved -- not only for accident victims and their families, but also for the professionals who deal with them. The training course is designed to help teach people how to notify families of a death in a compassionate way. MADD also hopes to raise awareness of the emotional difficulties that professionals such as police, emergency room workers and ambulance staff experience as a result of working with victims of drunk-driving accidents.
Though the organization has had many successes, it has also received some criticism. The movement's founder, Candy Lightner, left the organization in 1985 because she did not agree with some of its goals. She felt that MADD had become anti-alcohol, when the real issue was not so much drinking as driving while drunk.
More recently, MADD has begun engaging children and young adults by going into schools. It has multimedia programs which it hopes will give those facing peer pressure and other influences the tools they need to make wise choices when it comes to the use of alcohol.