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History of MADD
February 18, 2016

History of MADD

Photo by KOMUnews (Flickr)

The Beginnings

MADD was founded in May of 1980 by Candace Lightner in response to her daughter Cari being killed by a drunk driver. At the time Candace Lightner started the organization, it was estimated that nearly 660,000 people per year were being injured in drunk driving accidents, and one-third of those injured had died. What angered Lightner the most was that her daughter was walking on a sidewalk and not behind the wheel of a car when she was killed. It was the resolve of Lightner that launched MADD and helped to turn it into an international organization.

Law firms that wanted to fight for the rights of drunk driving victims found themselves handcuffed by a legal system that simply did not put a strong emphasis on punishing drunk driving. But by 1983, MADD had grown to more than 100 offices around the world with a rising number of members. The group’s message was getting across, and the average drunk driving lawyer now had the tools they needed to get justice for victims.

A Growing Movement

In 1983, MADD moved its international headquarters to Dallas, Texas. One of the goals of the organization was to make the work of prosecuting drunk drivers easier for every DUI lawyer. Dallas was a growing metropolitan area that was experiencing its fair share of drunk driving accidents, and MADD wanted to bring its resources to the Dallas area, and the entire world, to help victims get justice.

By 1984, MADD had 330 offices located in 47 states throughout the country. Thanks to the work done by MADD, President Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which brought the drinking age throughout the country up to 21 years of age. On May 14, 1988, MADD enhanced its public image by offering crisis counseling services to the families of 24 young people in Tennessee who had died in a drunk driving accident that involved a bus from a church group. The country quickly learned about MADD, and the organization grew.

Taking On Today’s Challenges

By 2000, an official Gallup poll showed that an astonishing 97 percent of all Americans recognized MADD’s name and knew the basic intentions of the organization. In 2002, MADD brought together lawmakers and other authorities from all over the country to discuss drunk driving at the first National Impaired Driving Summit. In 2003, MADD president Wendy Hamilton was asked by Congress to testify on the subject of drunk driving as lawmakers prepared to draft a six-year highway funding bill. It was the government’s way of showing that the work MADD has done matters when it comes to keeping people safe on American highways.

The organization continues to grow and have a strong say in what happens with drunk driving legislation throughout the country. Lawmakers credit MADD with saving lives because of the group’s progressive ideas on drunk driving prevention and ability to reach out to communities and educate people. The organization is going strong, and the results of its work can still be felt all over the world.

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