What is MADD?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a non-profit organization founded in the United States which focuses on the single issue of drunk driving. Drunk driving is a major problem in many nations, resulting in serious accidents and deaths every year. The organization would like to permanently stop all drunk driving in the United States, and it approaches this goal in a number of ways. There is also a sister organization in Canada, and there are smaller branches in other nations as well.

MADD fights against drunk driving in hopes of preventing needless accidents.
MADD fights against drunk driving in hopes of preventing needless accidents.

Drunk drivers often cause automobile crashes because they have slower reaction times and poor judgment. Unfortunately, the victims of these car crashes are often innocent. Passengers in other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists are just as likely to be killed through drunk driving as the driver. As a result, many people feel that drunk driving is irresponsible, because it endangers the lives of others. In the United States, the activity is also illegal.

Drunk drivers often cause car crashes because the alcohol has impaired their judgment and slowed their reactive reflexes.
Drunk drivers often cause car crashes because the alcohol has impaired their judgment and slowed their reactive reflexes.

MADD was founded in 1980 by Candy Lightner after the death of her 13 year old daughter, Cari. Her daughter was struck by a drunk driver while walking down the street in Sacramento, California. Angered and saddened by this incident, Lightner decided to start an organization to fight drunk driving. By the mid-1980s, MADD had become extremely popular all over the United States, with a huge member base to draw upon.

The primary goal of the organization is to stop all drunk driving. The organization also later added a measure to curb underage drinking to their mission statement. The organization uses a number of tactics which are sometimes controversial to achieve these goals. Critics of MADD have argued that the organization sometimes abridges civil liberties in its eagerness to stop drunk driving. Supporters argue that being killed by a drunk driver is an even more severe restriction of civil liberties, for the victim.

One of the fields in which MADD is extremely active is drunk driving legislation. The organization is responsible for nation-wide legislation which penalizes drunk driving more uniformly across the states, and also increases the severity of the punishment. The group lobbied for a reduction of the legal blood alcohol limit to .08, for example, and it supports heavier fines and fail time for offenders. MADD also supports a heavy crackdown on repeat offenders.

In addition, MADD participates in victim advocacy and education. The organization assists victims of drunk drivers, along with survivors, in a variety of ways. MADD advocates for victim impact statements in trials for drunk drivers, stages massive publicity campaigns to raise awareness about drunk driving, and also educates people in schools and drivers education programs. The organization claims that there has been a significant decrease in alcohol-related accidents since its founding in 1980.

Drunk driving car accidents often result in vehicle damage, injury, and sometimes fatalities.
Drunk driving car accidents often result in vehicle damage, injury, and sometimes fatalities.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


my best friend in the whole wide world was killed by a drunk driver. he was the best friend a person could ever have.

when my mom was told she had breast cancer, i thought my whole world had come to a end and after that i even moved to a whole new place knowing no one. i thought i was all alone and then he came up to me calling me his little girl friend. i was afraid of him and told him to go away but he never did. he always came back and one day when i needed someone to talk to he was there. i remember talking to him for hours.

I'm not even sure if he understood me sometimes but he listened and wiped my tears and told me everything will be okay. I would look at him and get mad and leave because it felt like everything got worse each time i heard that. well we entered high school together and he was there right along my side with me. he let nothing bad ever happen to me. we had never gotten into a argument ever! he always made me laugh, no matter what.

well, one day right before summer vacation, he and his mom and little cousin went to see the rest of their family up in Virginia, and on the way, an 18 wheeler killed them all because the driver was drunk.

i was home sick and didn't go to school that day but i got a lot of phone calls asking me if was i okay and i didn't understand why until the next day. i cried and cried didn't eat or anything. i was heartbroken i loved him as a brother. he was the closet thing to it for me. i was crushed.

no one could understand why i was always with him or why i was like his shadow. they thought i was just looking out for him, when it was really him who was looking out for me.

when he was about seven or eight, his step dad beat him in the head with a gun and he suffered memory loss and so he was in a slow class but to be he was always smart and normal just like the rest of us and no one could tell me differently.

i would fight anyone who picked on him. he was my heart. but i think he knew was going to leave because a couple of weeks before he told me that i would have to learn to be alone and i never understood it until that day came and he was gone forever. and he was right i lost my mom the next month and both grandparents. i will never forget that man for what he did to my best friend. but i will forgive.


I think that although there are still some drunk drivers that the crime rate has gone down more than a sufficient amount and for that i am glad. thank you MADD for keeping our roads safe. Thank you


In 2007 my son-in-law stopped along the interstate to help a person that wrecked. My son-in-law was knocked into a bridge from a car that had wrecked into the first wrecked car - he was killed. My daughter and he were only married for 16 months. I cannot tell you how devastating it has been for all the people who loved Jonathan. The judge sentenced him only to 90 days in jail and the remainder of his sentence to be served on home confinement. This person was charged with a DUI, DUI with death, and second offense suspended license.

Is there anything we can do to overturn his decision?


I think that it is really good that you are trying to help others and make children safe its sweet and all and im glad there are mothers that give a little to help out kids in need

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