For most, the holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends, creating long-lasting memories, and relaxing after what feels like a very long year. While this is how many will spend their holidays, others will spend theirs alone, mourning, or at the hospital, saying goodbye to their loved ones. Two of the happiest, most celebrated dates—Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve—are also two of the most dangerous. In 2018, drunk driving crashes killed 108 people on these two days alone. Thankfully, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been decreasing fatalities for the past four decades and works with law enforcement during December to raise awareness during National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.
The History of MADD
Mothers Against Drunk Driving started in 1980 when one mom’s tragedy turned into one of the most influential non-profit organizations. On May 3, 1980, thirteen-year-old Cari Lightner and a friend were walking to a church carnival in Fair Oaks, California when Cari was struck by a car from behind. The driver, Clarence Busch, had just been released from jail two days prior for a fourth DUI arrest. When Cari’s mother, Candy Lightner, learned that the act of drunk driving was seldomly prosecuted with significant time spent behind bars, she decided to take her action, and MADD was born. After lobbying California’s governor, Jerry Brown, to set up a task force that would look into drunk driving incidents, Lightner became the first member of the task force and has been a part of major accomplishments since then. For example,
While MADD explodes nationwide, Lightner helps pass a law placing minimum fines of $375 for drunk drivers and mandatory imprisonment at a maximum of four years for repeat offenders.
President Regan asks Lightner to serve on the National Commission against Drunk Driving.
The U.S. Congress raises the national minimum drinking age to 21.
Supreme Court upholds sobriety checkpoints as constitutional.
Zero Tolerance is passed into federal law. Zero Tolerance states that it's illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be under the influence of alcohol while driving by any limit. This law was then passed by all 50 states in 1998.
President Clinton signs the federal law lowering the legal Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) from 0.1% to 0.08%. This law was then passed by all 50 states in 2004.
What has MADD been up to in the last 20 years?
In the last two decades, MADD has attempted to enact laws including ignition interlocks, which all 50 states offer as options, but only 30 states require them after a DUI charge. MADD has also released school programs to connect parents with their teens regarding underage drinking, its consequences, and solutions to avoid it. In addition, 14 teams on the NFL participated in spreading awareness of drinking under the influence by asking their fans to pledge to be the most valuable position—the designated driver. By taking these actions, in 2019, there were only 10,142 fatalities due to alcohol-impaired motor vehicle drivers. This statistic is a 5.3% decrease from the previous year and approximately a 40% decrease from 1980 (also when MADD was founded).
How has the pandemic increased drunk driving-related fatalities?
Unfortunately, the number of fatalities increased when the pandemic hit. It seemed as though many were saving on gas with the decreased 430 billion miles driven, but somehow drunk driving collisions increased by 9% in 2020 compared to 2019. With a total of 38,680 people killed from motor vehicle crashes in 2020, it can be inferred that the pandemic influenced stress, which then had an impact on drinking levels. However, this situation doesn’t hold as an excuse for drinking behind the wheel. The only acceptable number of fatalities is 0. Anyone that drives on the road needs to do their part in looking out for not only themselves but also those around them.
MADD’s 24-Hour Victim/Survivor Helpline: 877-MADD-HELP (1-877-623-3435).
Author : Jennifer Dutton, Blog Writer, DrinkLyte Co. "Helping Grow CPG Brands Beyond Their Potential"