Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

views updated May 11 2018

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

511 East John Carpenter Freeway
Suite 700
Irving, Texas 75062-8187
Telephone: (214) 744-6233
Toll Free: (800) GET-MADD
Web site:

Nonprofit Organization
Employees: 350
Operating Revenues: $50.22 million (2001)
NAIC: 813319 Other Social Advocacy Organizations; 813940 Political Organizations

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been called Americas most-liked charity, though its familiar acronym suggests the rage that prompted its formation in 1980. The groups traditional mission has been to fight what MADD national president Millie Webb has called the most frequently committed violent crime in the nationdrunk driving injuries and deaths. In its first two decades, the organization has been credited with fostering a profound reduction in the number of alcohol-related fatalities. Along the way, it changed an entire societys attitude towards driving under the influence (DUI) and introduced terms like designated driver into the lexicon. MADD continues to work to lower number of drunk driving deaths, and it has expanded its mission to include prevention of underage drinking.


In May 1980, 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed by a drunk driver as she walked on the sidewalk in her suburban Sacramento neighborhood. The driver, Clarence William Busch, did not stop, but when he was apprehended he was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.20 percentand previous drunk-driving convictions. He was, in fact, out on bail for a similar hit-and-run.

Cari Lightner left behind two sisters, one of them her twin. The Lightners story was horrifying but not uniquethere were 27,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the United States that year, 2,500 of them in California. However, in this case, the girls mother, Candace Lightner, a real estate agent, used her grief to fuel a new grassroots organization dedicated to reshaping the publics perception of drunk driving.

The name of the new group and the date of incorporation were borrowed from family members. Her sister suggested calling the group Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or MADD. The Guardian of Manchester, England, among others, noted the gender implications. The feminine aspect of the title was an entirely accurate statement of feminine anger against the chiefly male perpetrators, who included the lawyers and judges that coddled this behavior. MADDs mission was to convince society that driving under the influence was a serious crime, and the devastating results of the decision to drive under the influence were not accidents.

As for the date of incorporation, September 5, 1980that would have been Cari Lightners 14th birthday. The Guardian also noted the political implications of the word Motheras American as apple pie. Still, the first couple of months were slow going. Later that fall, Lightner persuaded California governor Jerry Brown to set up a task force. Two years later, a presidential commission was formed which recommended raising the minimum drinking age to 21 and revoking the license of drunk drivers.

MADD was not the first organization of its kind in the United StatesRID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers) had been formed in 1978but it soon proved to be the most influential. It had chapters in 31 states by 1982. MADDs members, typically parents who had lost children to drunk driving accidents, testified before lawmakers. MADDs pitch focused on these innocent children, and the media was sympathetic. In fact, Lightners own story was told in a made-for-TV movie on NBC in 1983. The same year, MADD forged an alliance with Anheuser-Busch to promote the then-novel concept of responsible drinking. The group was clearly making big waves in the beverage industry.

Drinking Age Raised to 21 in 1984

MADD relocated its national headquarters to a suburb of Dallas, Texas, in 1983. An important name change took place in 1984, when the group began calling itself Mothers Against Drunk Driving. That year, the group saw passage of a new federal law that raised the drinking age to 21.

In 1985, Lon G. von Hurwitz produced the public-service video Dont Drive Drunk starring Stevie Wonder. A follow-up featured Aretha Franklin. Hurwitz would become the organizations chairman in 1993. Also in 1985, founder Candace Lightner and the organization she founded parted ways due to disagreements with the MADD board.

By this time, MADD had 650,000 members in 47 states. About the same time as the U.S. organization was gathering steam, a number of anti-drunk driving groups were springing up in Canada, including PRIDE (People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) in Ontario, PAID in Alberta, and CAID in Manitoba. PRIDE became MADD Canada in 1990.

Fighting for 0.08 in the 1990s

Revenues, largely achieved through telemarketing, were about $50 million in 1990. The group set up a 900 number to support its Strike Against Drunk Driving program for league bowlers. Probably the most visible effort was the Red Ribbon campaign, which asked motorists to show support for responsible drinking behavior during the holidays by tying ribbons to their car antennas.

In the early 1990s, MADD began a long campaign to lower the nations blood alcohol level (BAC) from 0.10 to 0.08, or 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood. This was the difference between four or five drinks in an hour for the average-sized person, according to a MADD spokesman.

By 1992, 41 states and the District of Columbia had adopted BAC of 0.10 as the legal measure of intoxication. Five states had already adopted the lower 0.08 limit; MADD lobbyists had persuaded Congress to link federal highway grants to states acceptance of the lower limit.

The lower limit met with resistance from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which quoted statistics from Maine that suggested most drunk driving deaths occurred above the 0.10 standard and that only a tiny fraction of heavy drinkers on the road were arrested, reported Restaurant Hospitality. Naturally, the restaurant industry worried about the implications of a lower BAC or highly profitable wine sales.

MADD president Milo Kirk countered that the state of California had reduced alcohol-related deaths 15 percent in one year after going to a 0.08 BAC and implementing a few other measures such as high publicity and strict enforcement.

In 1993, MADD financed an infomercial that brought together some of Hollywoods top talents in a retrospective chronicling the depiction of drunk driving in film. In Its a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewarts drunken character wrecked into a tree without censure. By the early 1990s, attitudes had matured; designated drivers were appearing in movies, and the MADD tagline Friends dont let friends drive drunk was uttered in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. The well-known film critic team Siskel & Ebert hosted the program.

In early 1994, MADD founder Candace Lightner began working for the Berman & Co. lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the American Beverage Institute. Her mission: persuading states not to lower their legal drunk driving standard to 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content. Both Lightner and MADDs then-president Beckie Brown downplayed the apparent conflict of interest, saying they merely disagreed on the 0.08 issue. Others, however, saw her as a traitor to the cause.

By the mid-1990s, MADD was considered Americas most-loved charity by one survey. Alcohol-related traffic deaths had fallen 40 percent in the 15 years since MADD was founded. However, there was trouble in Texas, as local chapters battled the national office over the way money was raised and spent. The national office lost $1 million on a botched grocery store coupon book giveaway in 1991, reported the Wall Street Journal The Las Vegas chapter disbanded to form a rival group, Stop DUI, after a disastrous $50,000 telemarketing campaign that netted the unit just one dollar and some change.

Nationwide revenues fell 22 percent, to $40 million, in fiscal 1993, leading to a desperate shortfall for the head office. A telemarketing blitz raised revenues to $47.7 million in fiscal 1994, but the $1 million deficit nearly tripled. MADDs national office responded by cutting costs and also garnishing $1.3 million in future telemarketing earnings from several states. The Michigan office filed a lawsuit to prevent this in February 1995.

Taking On Teens in 1996

In 1996, MADD claimed 3.2 million members and 500 chapters. Towards the end of the year, it reported a depressing statistic: after ten years of decreases, the number of alcohol-related highway deaths in the United States rose by 4 percent in 1995, to 17,274.

MADD shifted its focus to fighting underage drinking. The group produced a $250,000 video and slide show called Take the Lead that it presented in high schools. U.S. Fidelity & Guaranty Co.s USF&G Foundation footed the bill for the production.

MADD and other child advocates pressured Anheuser-Busch to take its talking frog commercials off the air, claiming they appealed to children. The organization had launched its first major attack on alcohol advertising three years earlier, when national president Becky Brown warned industry advertisers against using celebrities, music stars, athletes, animals, cartoon characters, or other language or images that have special appeal to youth.

Company Perspectives:

The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime, and prevent underage drinking.

Tie maker Stonehenge Limited teamed with MADD in 1997 to produce a range of neckties intended to serve as alcohol awareness reminders. They were decorated with reproductions of the molecular structures of various cocktails as seen under a microscope.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA), MADDs longtime lobbying opponent, was its partner in a 1997 designated driver effort. Another sponsor of the campaign was AAMCO Transmissions, which placed promotions inside restaurants using such taglines as Designate a Driver, Not a Beneficiary. The NRA continued to oppose MADDs efforts to lower the legal intoxication limit to 0.08 percent, however.

The Labor Day weekend was traditionally the most deadly time of year relating to drunk driving incidents in the United States. During this period in 1997, 250 people were killed by drunk drivers; these were mourned in national advertising that also noted a high-profile loss overseas: the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, whose driver had been profoundly intoxicated.

20 in 2000

At the time of MADDs 20th anniversary in 2000, alcohol-related traffic fatalities had dropped 40 percent in two decades. That was still 16,000 too many needless deaths for the group, which set a goal of lowering the number to 11,000 by 2005. MADD won a major victory when, late in 2000, the Clinton administration passed a law tying federal highway funds to states adoption of the 0.08 blood alcohol content standard. States with the toughest drunk driving laws were beginning to treat drunk driving accidents as murdereven first-degree murder, in one North Carolina case.

In 2001, MADD found new support for its decade-long fight to persuade states to lower the drunk driving standard to 0.08 blood alcohol content. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) pledged its support, despite objections from operators who believed the measure would criminalize more of their patrons without affecting the number of problem drinkers. At the time, 19 states were using the 0.08 standard.

MADD rolled out its Pasa Las Llaves (Pass the Keys) program in California in late 2001 to promote responsible driving concepts among Latinos, a group with a disproportionate rate of alcohol consumption. Around the same time, the organization was signing up MADD chapters, known as UM ADD, at universities around the country. Underage drinking and binge drinking were problems on campus. Another group, Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD), was not affiliated with MADD.

The MADD logo was updated for the first time in August 2002. The words Mothers Against Drunk Driving were dropped from the logo due to name recognition for the MADD acronym, which a Gallup survey pegged at 97 percent.

Key Dates:

Candy Lightner starts MADD after her daughter is killed in a motor vehicle accident involving a drunk driver.
MADD relocates its headquarters to Texas.
The legal drinking age is raised to 21 in the United States.
Lightner leaves MADD.
MADD expands its mission to take on underage drinking.
A blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 percent is adopted as the federal drunk driving standard.
MADD updates its logo.

Further Reading

Blumenthal, Karen, Philanthropy: Chapters Fight MADD Over Control of Money, Wall Street Journal, March 13, 1995, p. B1.

Deam, Jenny, MADD Milestone: California Mom Changed Nations Drinking Habits, Denver Post, September 5, 2000, p. E1.

Dianas Death Invoked in MADD Ad Campaign, Record (Bergen County, N.J.), September 14, 1997, p. A10.

Drunken-Driving Fight Slipping, MADD Reports; Alcohol-Related Deaths Increasing Again After Falling for a Decade, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 27, 1996, p. 6.

Griffin, Katherine, MADD Again, Health, July/August 1994, pp. 62 +.

Houghton, Jennifer, Neckties Bring Attention to DUI Dangers, Parkers burg (West Virginia) News, May 22, 1997, p. C1.

Humphrey, Tom, Stiffer Law Pleases MADD; Legal Limit 0.08 Starting in 2003, News Sentinel (Knoxville, Term.), July 11, 2002, p. B1.

Jonsson, Patrik, State May Give Drunk Drivers Death Penalty; N. Carolina Is at Front of Trend that Treats Vehicular Homicide as Just Plain Murder, Christian Science Monitor, April 3, 2000, p. 2.

Koltnow, Barry, MADD Sees Something to Be Glad About, Orange County Register, November 5, 1993, p. P41.

Lowe, Kimberly, Has MADD Gone Mad?, Restaurants & Institutions, March 15, 1997, p. 14. MADD Founder Switches Sides, Oregonian, January 15, 1994, p. A17.

MADD Hopes Drivers Will Tie One On to Save Lives, Oregonian, November 26, 1991, p. B4.

MADDs Attorney Accused of Using Link to Get ClientsAnd Minnesota President Is Trying to Oust Director, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), February 19, 1991, p. 1B.

Marshall, Mac, and Alice Oleson, MADDer Than Hell, Qualitative Health Research, February 1996, pp. 6 + .

Martin, Hugo, Drunk-Driving Foes Launch Effort to Reach States Latinos, Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2001, p. Bl.

Mathews, Jay, MADD Against Ads: Widening a Crusade, Group Opposes Pitches Appealing to Youth, Washington Post, December 14, 1994, p. Fl.

Nichols, Hans S., Getting Drunk on Rebellion, Insight on the News, July 16, 2001, pp. 18f.

Peters, Eric, MADD House, National Review, September 28, 1998, pp. 36f.

Pianin, Eric, How Pressure Politics Bottled Up a Tougher Drunk-Driving Rule, Washington Post, May 22, 1998, p. A20.

Prewitt, Milford, Operators Angry Over Liquor Industrys Support of MADD, Nations Restaurant News, April 30, 2001, pp. 1, 79.

Robison, Clay, and R.G. Ratcliffe, Bill to Cut DWI Level Likely Killed; MADD Criticizes Senators Maneuver, Houston Chronicle, May 19, 1997, p. A1.

Rudavsky, Shari, After Car Crash at UMass, Students Turn to MADD; Chapter Is Among First in the Nation, Boston Globe, December 2, 2001, p. C9.

Santana, Arthur, MADD Marks 20th Anniversary with New Appeal to Congress, Seattle Times, September 7, 2000, p. A17.

Sealey, Géraldine, Drunken-Driving Foes Face a New Enemy: Their Own Success, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 18, 1998, p. A1.

Smith, Lynn, MADD at 20: Still a Force for Change, Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2000, p. E1.

Somerville, Sylvia, MADD About Money, Restaurant Hospitality, February 1992, p. 48.

Stamborski, Al, Wise-Er? Under Pressure, A-B Drops Frog Commercials, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 15, 1997, p. CI. Sutherland, John, How Americas Roads Became Safer Thanks to a Bunch of Madd Womenand Where the US Goes, We Follow, Guardian, March 19, 2001.

Teinowitz, Ira, MADDs Demands for Equal Ad Time Fall on Deaf Ears, Advertising Age, June 14, 1999, p. 16.

Valentine, Paul W., MADD Turns Its Message to Teenagers; Young Drivers to Be Focus of Anti-Drinking Initiatives, Washington Post, October 24, 1996, p. B1.

Volunteering For and Working With Your Local MADD Chapter, Journal of American Insurance, Fourth Quarter 1990, pp. 9 + .

Walker, Theresa, O.C. Resident Takes Over MADD Leadership, Orange County Register, December 31, 1993, p. B2.

Ward, Kyle, MADDs Telemarketing: Successes and Cautions, Fund Raising Management, March 1992, pp. 26 + .

Weed, F.J., The MADD Queen: Charisma and the Founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Leadership Quarterly, 1993, pp. 329-46.

Zuber, Amy, NRA and MADD Unite to Combat Drunk Driving, Nations Restaurant News, June 16, 1997, pp. 1, 99.

Frederick C. Ingram

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

views updated May 21 2018

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a national organization that works to reduce drunk driving and to help the victims of drunk-driving accidents. Many of MADD's members are volunteers who have personally suffered from the results of drunk driving. MADD was founded by Candy Lightner, whose 13-year old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver on May 3, 1980. Lightner was outraged to learn that only two days previously the driver had been released from jail, where he had been held for another hit-and-run drunk-driving crash. Although he had been arrested for drunk driving several times before, he was still driving with a valid California license. Lightner decided to begin a campaign to keep drunk drivers off the road, so that other mothers would not have to suffer the anguish that she was experiencing. On September 5, 1980 (Cari's birthday), MADD was incorporated.

See Organizations of Interest at the back of Volume 3 for address, telephone, and URL.

Since then, MADD has evolved into an organization with millions of members and hundreds of local chapters across the United States. Chapters have also been started in Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Australia. Membership is not restricted to mothers of victims or to the victims themselves. Everyone who is concerned about the drunk-driving issue is welcome to join. Funding for the organization comes from membership dues and contributions. MADD also applies for and receives grants from federal and state governments and private organizations. Paid staff are employed to provide leadership on the state and national levels. MADD is involved in three major kinds of activity: (1) advocacy for stricter drunk-driving laws and better enforcement, (2) promotion of public awareness and educational programs, and (3) assistance to victims.

The Legislative Agenda

According to MADD, drunk driving is a violent crime. One of its rallying slogans is, "Murder by Car Is Still Murder!" Over the years, MADD members have worked to generate public support for passage of stricter drunk-driving laws, more appropriate punishments, and more consistent enforcement measures aimed at deterring drunk driving. In the 1980s intense lobbying efforts were undertaken for the passage of laws making 21 the minimum legal age for drinking (now in force in all fifty states). The group believes that this measure has saved thousands of lives that would have been lost in drunk-driving crashes.

MADD has also lobbied for changes in legal procedures that would make the system more responsive to victims of drunk driving. For example, in many states victims had been barred from the courtroom during the trial of the accused in their own drunk-driving cases, because their testimony (or even their presence) might prejudice the jury. As a result of the efforts of MADD and other groups, all fifty states have passed victims' rights bills. These bills ensure that victims will be notified about court hearings and, in most states, allowed to testify about the impact of the crime on their lives. Other lobbying efforts have sought to close legal loopholes that drunk drivers were using to avoid punishment. For example, some drivers refused to take a breath test for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and then were allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge. In other cases, drivers were allowed to claim that despite their BAC, their driving was not really impaired.

MADD has had a central role in the passage of over 1,000 tougher drunk-driving laws that close these loopholes and establish other deterrence measures, such as mandatory jail sentences for drunk drivers. MADD also supports efforts to require offenders to undergo treatment for alcoholism and/or drug dependency, if this is deemed necessary.

Public Awareness and Education

MADD is involved in various efforts to raise public awareness and concern about drunk driving. The "National Candlelight Vigil of Remembrance and Hope" is held in many locations each December, drawing victims together to give public testimony to the suffering that results from drunk driving. During the "Red Ribbon Tie One On for Safety" campaign, which takes place between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, MADD encourages citizens to attach a red ribbon to their car as a reminder to themselves and others to drive sober. MADD's well-known public awareness campaign of the past used the slogan "Think . . . Don't Drink and Drive" in public-service announcements on radio and television and in print materials. Another campaign, "Keep It a Safe Summer" (KISS) emphasized the need for sobriety during recreational activities that involve driving, boating, or other risky activities. MADD also provides curriculum materials for schools and each year sponsors a poster and essay contest for children on the subject of drunk driving.

Assistance to Victims

Programs that provide aid to victims of drunk-driving crashes are at the heart of MADD's mission. Support groups help victims share their pain with others who understand their feelings. MADD members send "We Care" cards to victims of recent crashes. Specially trained victim advocates offer a one-on-one personal relationship with victims, trying to respond to both their emotional and practical needs. Victims are informed about their legal rights and on the judicial procedures relevant to their cases. They can call a toll-free number (1- 800-GET MADD) for information and for help in case of crisis. MADD also offers training for police in notifying people about the deaths of their loved ones and specialized training for other community professionals, such as clergy and medical workers, who are called upon to assist victims.

Since the founding of MADD in 1980, the percentage of traffic deaths involving alcohol has steadily decreased from almost 60 percent of all traffic deaths to around 50 percent. MADD's 1990 goal "20 × 2000" aimed to reduce that proportion by an additional 20 percent by 2000. This goal was reached three years early, in 1997. Current goals include reducing alcohol-related traffic fatalities to 11,000 or fewer by the year 2005. In 1999, MADD expanded its mission statement to include prevention of underage drinking. Future efforts will focus on more effective law enforcement, increased punishments, and prevention programs that include education for youth and more responsible practices by establishments that sell alcohol.

see also Blood Alcohol Concentration; Breathalyzer; Drinking Age; Driving, Alcohol, and Drugs; Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

views updated May 11 2018


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 <> (accessed July 28, 2003).


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