Grief fuels advocacy – MADD makes a difference

In 20 years, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has grown from one bereaved mother’s undertaking to a model advocacy group whose efforts have led to a 40 percent reduction in alcohol-related fatalities, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Much has changed since Candace Lightner founded the organization in response to her daughter’s death.

The minimum drinking age has been raised to 21 throughout the U.S., for example, most states revoke the licenses of drunk drivers and alcohol-related fatalities have decreased 40 percent.

In the early ‘80s, 27,000 people were killed each year in alcohol-related crashes.

“Drunk driving was the only socially acceptable form of homicide,” Lightner told the Times. 

Alcohol continues to be the leading factor in motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. Today, alcohol-related crashes claim the lives of 16,000 people each year.

Texas-based MADD, whose annual budget has grown to $40 million, has 600 affiliates in 50 states, the Times reports.

Executive Director Dean Wilkerson told the Times that MADD has expanded its mission to eliminate underage drinking and crack down on hard-core offenders. 

“What’s so admirable about MADD is that the majority of people are actually victims of drunk driving crashes,” said Cathy Hickey of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a MADD partner. “They don’t want other families to go through what they’ve gone through.”

Lightner has left the organization she founded and now consults for groups whose causes she believes in:  youth organizations, animal rights groups and anti-discrimination causes for Arab Americans.

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