In this context, MADD took the view that driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime and should be treated as such, rather than merely as a benign symptom of a drinking problem. MADD focused immediately on the need for stricter laws to deal with drunken driving offenses. Early goals for the organization included mandatory jail for repeat offenders, a higher legal drinking age, limits on sales of cut-price drinks which encouraged excessive consumption, and specific criminal justice rights for DUI victims.
Many of the actions that MADD has taken are familiar. These include direct actions such as Operation Prom/Graduation, where young people at prom time sign a pledge not to drink and drive. Other strategies include the Red Ribbon campaign to raise public awareness about drunk driving, and the designated driver programs.
The founding president of MADD, Candy Lightner, left in disgust from the organization that she herself created because of its change in goals. "It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned," she says. "I didn't start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving."
MADD ... seemed to expand its mission to one of discouraging the consumption of alcohol in general — what critics call "neo-prohibition."
MADD's biggest victory on this front was a nationwide blood-alcohol threshold of .08, down from .10. But ... two-thirds of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve blood-alcohol levels of .14 and above, and the average fatal accident occurs at .17
Primarily grassroots and volunteer driven, MADD has over 600 state organizations, chapters, and community action teams in each of the 50 states as well as affliates in Guam, Puerto Rico and Canada. MADD consists of over three million members and supporters nationwide.
As MADD grew into the group of and for drunk-driving victims, it underwent a slight modification of the organization's name - from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The name change was intended to reflect the group's opposition to the crime of drunk driving, rather than towards the individuals who commit it.
Candy Lightner founded the organization in 1980 in Sacramento, California, after a drunk driver killed her thirteen-year-old daughter. The driver had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.20 percent and five previous drunk driving convictions, the latest just two days before the accident in which he killed Cari Lightner. He pleaded guilty and received two years in prison. Lightner was furious at the lenient sentence and quickly began organizing for stricter laws and penalties.
Programs encompass adults, college students, youth, and law-enforcement professionals. About half of its funding comes from donors; the rest is from corporate donations and the Victim of Crimes Act, which distributes money seized from criminals to victim services groups.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit grass roots organization with more than 600 chapters nationwide. MADD's mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.
MADD's early lobbying efforts to change laws, such as raising the legal drinking age to age 21 across America, resulted in quick implementation. US government statistics report that the number of alcohol-related deaths on American highways had declined by roughly 47% from nearly 30,000 deaths a year when MADD was founded to around 16,000 roughly 25 years later.