MADD makes 25 years, and begs retirement

via Fox News, and the on-target Radley Balko:

This fall Mothers Against Drunk Driving marks its 25th anniversary. The organization certainly has much to celebrate: Deaths from drunk driving are down more than 35 percent since the early 1980s. We no longer chuckle at the bumbling drunk who can barely get his key into the ignition — we scorn him. Hopefully, we arrest him, too.

Unfortunately, MADD has come to outlive and outgrow its original mission. By the mid-1990s, deaths from drunk driving began to level off, after 15 years of progress. The sensible conclusion to draw from this was that the occasional drunk driver had all but been eradicated. MADD’s successes had boiled the problem down to a small group of hard-core alcoholics.

It was at about this time that MADD began to move in a different direction, one not so much aimed at reducing drunk driving fatalities but at stripping DWI defendants of basic criminal rights. MADD also seemed to expand its mission to one of discouraging the consumption of alcohol in general — what critics call “neo-prohibition.”

Before you write excoriating emails, I am an Emergency Physician and I see the effects of drunk driving virtually every shift, sometimes several times per shift. I have previously denounced drunk drivers, and truly wish there were more prosecutions of the actually impaired driver. I’m also very aware of research that the drunk drivers I see are less likely to be prosecuted.

And, MADD is off the rails. Their actions toward a new prohibition are both wrong-headed and counterproductive. Their initial goal, a change of laws and attitudes toward drunk drivers, is done. They must stop before they damage their initial cause, and trivialize their initial gains.


  1. I’m so glad you said this, because I’ve felt the same way about MADD for several years.

    Unfortunately, they aren’t the only group that wants to strip offenders of basic rights, and I don’t know how we’re going to stop this dangerous trend or if it can be stopped.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bravo! MADD wants nothing sort of prohibition and needs to return to its roots. We all want drunk drivers off of the road but leave us light to moderate drinkers alone!

  3. Catherine says:

    FYI: I think that these changes occurred after the ouster of MADD’s founder, Candy Lightner. Ms. Lightner, whose 13 year old daughter was killed by a drunken hit-&-run driver in 1980, does not support these changes. Today’s MADD has veered sharply away from the organization’s original charter, which was to raise public awareness of the serious nature of drunken driving and to promote tough legislation against the crime.

  4. Hmmm, I’m not sure I understand what MADD’s aim is? To take away a drunk driver’s rights in court? I’m probably not the best person to argue against this one…my sister was killed by a drunk driver. I feel like you’ve created a wreck after driving drunk, you don’t deserve your license anymore. Why should the drunk driver get a second chance? My sister didn’t get a second chance.

    In regards to prohibiting drinking all together, well, I’d have to disagree with that. (is that what I’m reading? please tell me if I’m wrong) I’m a light social drinker, but after my sister dying, I don’t ever drive after I drink a glass of wine…

  5. Agreed – MADD is definitely off the rails. But there is still an AWFUL lot of drunken driving, particularly late at night – Check the accident reports in any small-town newspaper – far too many of them are drinking-related. I’d take away the driver’s license of anyone involved in a drunk-driving accident for a significant period, even if it imperiled a job. Driving is NOT a right. If a person can’t figure it out that drinking and driving don’t mix and won’t stop drinking, take away their driving and make it safer for the rest of us.