35 Years together | MADD

Saving Lives, Serving People

This year, we proudly celebrate the 30th anniversary of the designated driver and Tie One On For Safety®, our longest running and most visible public awareness project.

America today

MADD has helped to save nearly 330,000 lives… and counting.

MADD Victim Services provides new TV PSAs to stations nationwide.

The DADSS concept car is unveiled at MADD’s 35th Anniversary National Conference.

By June of 2015, MADD helps to pass all-offender ignition interlock laws in 25 states, the most recent state being Texas.

MADD launches the next phase of Power of Parents, a research-based program designed for parents of middle school students, to help parents have ongoing, intentional and potentially lifesaving conversations about alcohol with their kids.

New Vision & Mission

A nation without drunk and drugged driving

“To end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking.”

Video: Colleen Sheehey-Church

Walk Like MADD, the annual fundraising and awareness event, gathers communities to prevent drunk driving and honor victims.


In 2013, 10,076 people are killed due to drunk driving, a 55% drop in deaths since MADD’s founding in 1980.

MADD releases Power of Youth, a new school-based program for high school teens to influence each other to not drink under 21 and never get in the car with a drinking driver.

MADD launches Power of Parents, a new research-based program designed for parents of high school students, to help parents have ongoing, intentional and potentially lifesaving conversations about alcohol with their teens.

MADD updates it’s logo in 2011… the organizations third registered logo in its history.

Video: Jan Withers

MADD announces a new partnership with the NFL in 2010 with a game-day program asking fans to designate a non-drinking driver. Starting with just two teams, today 14 teams participate generating hundreds of thousands of fans pledging to play the Most Valuable Position—the designated driver.

The Newseum’s First Amendment Gallery puts each of the five freedoms in historical context and provides perspective on what they mean to us today.

One of those freedoms, the Freedom to Petition, includes MADD as the lead example of petitioning the government to change legislation. MADD has been a part of this permanent exhibit since the Newseum’s grand opening in 2008.

Video: Laura Dean Mooney

When the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving is unveiled in 2006, New Mexico is the only state that has passed an all-offender ignition interlock law. Today half of the country has laws requiring ignition interlocks for first-time convicted drunk drivers.

MADD begins integrating the term “survivor” in its vocabulary, which can represent injury survivors as well as allow victims to self-identify what stage of the healing process they are in. As a result, MADD Victim Services releases a new tagline, Helping Survivor Survive. In addition, MADD launches a new toll-free 24-hour victim helpline 877.MADD.HELP.

Video: Glynn Birch

The early 2000s were focused on the hard-fought battle to get .08 BAC passed in all 50 states. As a result of MADD’s perseverance, persistence and heart for victims, .08 finally passes in all 50 states by 2004.

Video: Wendy Hamilton

MADD releases its second registered logo in 2001.

President Bill Clinton signs Federal law lowering the legal drunk driving limit to .08% BAC, Oct. 23, 2000

Video: Millie Webb

During the second half of the 90s, MADD focuses on building underage drinking prevention efforts and programs. MADD convenes two National Youth Summits in 1996 and again in 2000 bringing youth from across the country to Washington, DC. The decade culminates with MADD adding the prevention of underage drinking as a stand-along mission prong in its revised mission statement: "To stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking."

MADD goes online at madd.org

Video: Karolyn Nunnallee

In 1995, Zero Tolerance passes into Federal law making it illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol. By 1998, Zero Tolerance is passed in all 50 states.

Video: Katherine Prescott

In 1993, Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert and Leeza Gibbons co-host “Hollywood Gets MADD,” a 30-minute infomercial that explored the problem of drinking and driving and how Hollywood's attitude toward drunk driving, as reflected in its movies, has changed over the years.

Video: Rebecca Brown

This is MADD’s first registered logo in 1992. That same year, MADD revises and simplifies its mission statement,
"To stop drunk driving and support the victims of this violent crime."

Video: Milo Kirk

Sobriety checkpoints are upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1990.

MADD establishes Victim Impact Panels, providing victims a healing opportunity to share their story in hopes that it deters offenders from drinking and driving again.

In 1988, the nation experienced the worst drunk driving crash in US history when a drunk driver hits a school bus head on filled with mostly children on their way home from church outing. The bus burst into flames killing 24 children and 3 adults. 34 others were seriously injured.

Video: Micky Sadoff

Victim Advocate Training Institutes are introduced to train volunteer and staff victim advocates on how to appropriately provide supportive services to victims and survivors.

Project Red Ribbon, known today as Tie One On For Safety, launches in 1986. MADD’s longest running public awareness campaign, the public is asked to tie a red ribbon to a visible place on their vehicle as a pledge to never drink and drive and to remind others to do the same. MADD distributes more than 300,000 red ribbons between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve every year.

MADD's earliest known usage of "designated driver" is in 1986. MADD has since led the charge to popularize the phrase, making it a household term. Today MADD urges the public to plan ahead and designate a non-drinking driver if their plans include alcohol.

In the mid-80s an important term begins to emerge in MADD’s vernacular, the word “crash.” MADD does not use the word “accident” when referring to drunk or drugged driving, because it’s a choice, a violent crime and 100% preventable. By 1997, the Department of Transportation announces it will remove the term “accident” in all of its communication and asks the public to remove it from its vocabulary.

MADD revises its mission in 1985: To mobilize victims and their allies to establish the public conviction that impaired driving is unacceptable and criminal, in order to promote corresponding public policies, programs and personal responsibility."

Video: Norma Phillips Thorworth

In July of 1984, MADD makes a conscious and deliberate decision to change its name from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers to Mothers Against Drunk Driving… to signal that the organization is against the action, not the person.

With the name change came a mission change as well… “To provide grassroots leadership to create major social change in the attitude and behavior of Americans toward drunk driving."

A major milestone happened on July 17, 1984… the 21 minimum drinking age is signed into Federal law. President Ronald Reagan, known for “states’ rights” said in his remarks that day, “this problem is bigger than the individual States. It’s a grave national problem, and it touches all our lives.”

In 1987, the US Supreme Court upholds the 21 law as constitutional. All states pass 21 into law by 1988.

The MADD National Office moves from California to Texas to be located in the middle of the country and near a good airport. At the office grand opening in Hurst of September 1983, then-Democratic House Majority Leader Jim Wright attended and announced his support of the 21 Minimum Drinking Age Act. Later the National Office moved to its current location in Irving, and this highway sign once hung at the exit off of SH 114.

In the spring of 1983, NBC aired a made-for-TV movie called “The Candy Lightner Story,” which bolstered attention of the issue.

President Ronald Reagan created the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving on April 14, 1982. MADD was a member of the Commission. That same year, a significant piece of legislation passed, The Howard-Barnes Alcohol Traffic Safety Law, which provided $125 million in incentive grants for states to pass .10% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from .15, administrative license revocation and other drunk driving countermeasures.

In 1981 MADD exploded nationwide as volunteers picked up picket signs and marched in front of state capitols to get new drunk driving laws passed.

MADD holds its first candlelight vigil in California, which catches fire among chapters nationwide to honor victims. Culturally vigils have been and continue to be an important way to visually show the impact of drunk driving and provide victims an opportunity to gather and connect.

Candace Lightner worked tirelessly to change drunk driving laws in her home state and took that momentum to the national stage where MADD holds its first national press conference October 2, 1980 in Washington, DC.

Left to right: Candace Lightner, Rep. Michael Barnes (D-MD), unidentified woman, Cindi and Laura Lamb

The first mission statement: “To aid the victims of crimes performed by individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to aid the families of such victims and to increase public awareness of the problem of drinking and drugged driving."

Cindi Lamb, from Maryland, joined Candace Lightner and other grieving mothers to rally against the crime of drunk driving. A year earlier, Cindi and her 5-month-old daughter, Laura, were hit head-on by a repeat drunk driver. Cindi was seriously injured, while Laura became the nation’s youngest quadriplegic—and the first face of injured victims, representing hundreds of thousands of others.

The feisty, blue-eyed girl who loved to dance in her electric wheelchair, died at age 6 from complications due to her extensive injuries.

Cari’s mother, Candace Lightner, carried her daughter’s photo with her as she worked tirelessly to change drunk driving laws in California to try and make sense of a senseless act and turn her pain into purpose.

To this day, MADD holds photos of victims and survivors to put a face on the problem and share stories behind the statistics.

13-year-old softball all-star Cari Lightner was killed May 3, 1980 in Fair Oaks, California. She and a friend were walking to a church carnival and at the same time, a three-time repeat offender, out of jail just two days from a 4th DUI arrest, was barreling down the road. He hit Cari from behind, throwing her out of her shoes 125 feet, then fled the scene but was later arrested and charged with her death.

In that moment, Cari became the first face of drunk driving victims. She also represents the many pedestrian victims killed or injured due to drunk driving.

This photo was taken just hours before she was killed.


America before MADD

Nearly 25,000 people are killed in alcohol-related crashes, 50% of all traffic deaths.

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