The History of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, was founded in 1980 by a mother in California. Candice Lightner started the nonprofit following the death of her daughter, who was killed by an impaired motorist. The organization aims to stop this dangerous activity and support those who are affected by it. Over the years, the group has grown in size greatly and focuses its efforts on a few mission areas. In general, it places most of its effort in education and policy creation initiatives.

What Led To The MADD Organization?

On May 3, 1980, a hit-and-run driver killed Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter after drinking. The 46-year-old man, Clarence William Busch, left Lightner’s body at the scene and this marked his fifth arrest for drunk driving. Lightner started MADD in response to the tragedy and to enforce greater punishments on people operating a vehicle while inebriated. Busch only served 2 1/2 years for intoxicated manslaughter following the Lightner incident. After being released and attaining a temporary license, he would cause another wreck while intoxicated. This put the spotlight on a major problem in law enforcement.

When Was MADD Created?

The organization was formed on May 7, 1980, and since, it has quickly grown in size. It now receives more than $40 million in funding every year to pursue safety initiatives and create educational resources. The agency claims that drunk driving, since MADD was founded, has been cut in half. Much of this is likely due to some of the organization’s initiatives and missions. The primary mission of the agency is to educate people on the dangers of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. It also advocates for victims and provides assistance to those affected by this crime. It pushes for policy in several places, including administering a blood alcohol content limit of .08 percent and setting the minimum age for alcohol consumption at 21.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act

In 1980, the group was noticed by Frank R. Lautenberg, a U.S. Senator. Lautenberg sought a solution for reducing alcohol consumption among younger people in his home state of New Jersey. At the time, it was easy to travel to neighboring states to purchase alcohol for less, making drunk driving more common. MADD pushed for legislation that would raise the legal alcohol limit to 21 everywhere. In 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act achieved this goal by instituting a penalty on any state that didn’t raise the age limit. By 1988, this act created a uniform age limit for alcohol consumption across the country.

Utilizing Technology To Reduce Drink Driving

In recent years, the organization has turned to other technologies to reduce the rate of drunk driving. Among these, MADD has pushed strongly for an ignition interlock device to be installed in every vehicle. These devices function like breathalyzers and measure the blood alcohol concentration in a person’s system. When installed in a vehicle, the engine cannot be started until the operator provides a breath sample into the device. If the sample is greater than the allowed limit, the engine will not start. While the vehicle is in operation, the operator will be prompted to provide another sample. If it is not clean, the car will start an alarm that can only be shut down by stopping the car.

Fighting Drunk Driving

Since its foundation, this organization has been one of the most respected nonprofits in the world. It’s earned this reputation by aggressively eliminating intoxication crimes.