For decades, drunk driving-related crashes consistently accounted for around half of all traffic fatalities in the United States. Even though we had the technology to detect the presence of alcohol in a driver’s system since the 1930s, and even though several studies had been conducted about the dangers of driver impairment on our roads, there seemed to be little will among legislators to pass any meaningful laws to address the problem.
For nearly 60 years, drunk driving rates held firm. In 1980, this meant that around 25,000 lives were lost because of impaired drivers. To put it another way — 25,000 families lost a loved one because of drunk driving.
It was in 1980 that a group of mothers decided to do something about it, and they succeeded where so many before them had fallen short. Led by Candace Lightner, the mother of drunk driving victim Cari, these mothers became tireless advocates for what is perhaps the most important movement in the history of road safety in America. Mothers Against Drunk Driving was born out of tragedy, but it paved the way for legislation and safety awareness campaigns that have made every American safer.
MADD is a testament to our ability to effect change as citizens. Consider the fact that in 1980, there were more than 51,000 traffic fatalities in the United States. Since that time, our population has grown by nearly 100 million people, but the number of traffic fatalities has dropped by 15,000. One more statistic: Drunk driving in the United States has been cut in half since 1980.
It’s clear that the decrease in traffic fatalities in the face of population growth owes much to the efforts to reduce drunk driving, and the effort to reduce drunk driving has been fueled by MADD. It was MADD who first told us to “Tie One On For Safety” and to designate a driver when we drink alcohol. It was MADD who put faces on the statistics and urged policymakers to pass legislation to reduce drunk drivers on our roads.
Their successes have been our successes. They have helped save more than 330,000 lives. That is 330,000 families that were spared from the tragedy of a drunk driving crash. That’s 330,000 mothers spared the loss of a child.
How We Can Thank MADD
There are many ways that we can show our gratitude, but only one that lives up the incredible example set by MADD. We can join them in the fight. For all the good they have done, for all the minds they have persuaded, for all the people they have given voices, the most remarkable thing about MADD is the fact that they are just as passionate and unrelenting as they were in 1980.
No group is more aware of the challenges we face than the one that has done the most good for the cause. Today, MADD continues to remind us to designate a driver. They remind us that 27 people die every day because of drunk drivers. MADD is pushing for stronger legislation, including making ignition interlocks mandatory in all states.
If we want to pay tribute to MADD, we should get involved. We can do that by:
When people band together and truly want to change things, they have the power to do it. MADD has shown us all that we can make a difference. Let’s show MADD that we are with them in the fight to end drunk driving.