An estimated six million car accidents occur in the U.S. every year. Although not all of these are attributed to intoxication or impairment, statistics have shown that the likelihood is quite high: more than 300,000 incidents of drunk driving transpire every day. In fact, every two minutes a person is injured in a drunk driving crash. Since driving under the influence can lead to high costs (in terms of both legal and repair fees), injury, and even death, several advocacy groups have formed in recent decades to combat the dangerous trend. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also known as MADD, is one of the most vocal and well-known of them all.
A Dire Need
It is every parent’s nightmare to discover that their child has been killed in a fatal car crash, and knowing that it most likely would not have happened if alcohol was not in involved makes a bad situation even worse. That is exactly what happened to MADD founder Candace Lightner; her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was hit and killed by a drunk driver in 1980. Lightner formed MADD — which now has offices in every state across the country — to help educate drivers of all ages about the risks associated with getting behind the wheel of a car after you’ve had a few drinks. Since drunk driving is one of the three most common causes of car accidents, she was hoping her nonprofit organization would make a difference in saving future lives.
“EVERY crash has a devastating impact on victims and their friends, family, classmates, and coworkers,” the MADD website states. “EVERY crash is 100% preventable.” And with there being 56,804 traffic accidents in South Carolina in 2015 alone, there’s a lot of opportunity for prevention.
Unfortunately, they’re not just dealing with impulsive teenagers and brash adults; around 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from an alcohol use disorder. Since these disorders are generally characterized by an inability to resist the drink, it greatly increases their odds of being in a drunk driving accident. As a disease, alcoholism is the third-deadliest in the nation, both due to this risk and the likelihood of developing cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholic hepatitis, liver cancer, and other illnesses.
A Never-Ending Battle
MADD members may be fighting an uphill battle, but they’re determined to do as much as they can. From educational programs for teens to lobbies that push for stricter laws and protections (such as New York’s Leandra’s Law, which makes driving drunk with a child in the car a felony offense), they are not going to let drunk driving run rampant in America.
In fact, their latest campaign has been to enforce harsher punishments for those charged with DWIs; specifically, they’re looking to put ignition interlock devices — which require drivers to pass a breathalyzer test or their engine won’t start — in the vehicles of those charged with a DWI in the state of Texas.
“In Texas, we have about 1,100 deaths a year due to drunk driving and drunk driving crashes,” said Dawn Bevan, lead victim services specialist for MADD in Lubbock, Texas. “When you get that first DWI, it’s statistically proven that getting that interlock device helps prevent you from re-offending.”
The fight may never be over for MADD advocates, but they’re not letting that slow them down.