Established in 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to stop drunk driving, support victims of drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, educate the public about the impact of drinking and driving, and lobby for stricter alcohol policy. Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created by Candice Lightner following the death of her 13-year-old daughter by a drunk driver.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Legal Drinking Age
In 1984, Mothers Against Drunk Driving proposed legislation in Congress to raise the minimum legal drinking age to 21 years old. In 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which mandated that states either raise the minimum legal age for the purchase and possession of alcohol to 21, or face a 10% loss of federal highway dollars. Shortly thereafter, the United States Supreme Court upheld MADD’s proposal, which forced every state to comply with the minimum legal age of 21. MADD can be credited with establishing the country’s legal drinking age.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Push for Nationwide .08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
Mothers Against Drunk Driving aggressively lobbied to reduce the legal limit for blood alcohol content from BAC .10 to BAC .08. In 2000, this standard was passed by Congress and by 2005, every state had an illegal .08 BAC limit. Prior to MADD’s involvement in pursuing the changed BAC law, each state had different levels in determining impairment. MADD felt that the level at that time was far too high. MADD’s influence pushed all 50 states to adopt laws – based on research that all people are impaired at the same level – making it illegal to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher.
Criticism of Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Critics of Mothers Against Drunk Driving have opined that the organization has evolved from one that once dealt with raising awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving and has shifted its focus into temperance. MADD has often used suggestive images and tag lines to associate the act of drinking alcohol with other taboo and completely unrelated activities. For example, MADD produces a graphic that equates drinking beer with shooting heroin with an image of a beer bottle as a heroin syringe. MADD has also produced television ads with the tagline, “if you think there’s a difference” between heroin and alcohol, “you’re dead wrong.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has also faced growing criticism over its methods of fundraising and how they appropriate funds solicited from the very public their message seeks to inform. Mothers Against Drunk Driving spends almost two out of every three dollars raised ON fund-raising. The American Institute of Philanthropy has stated, “Mothers Against Drunk Driving spends most of its time in self-perpetuating fund-raising efforts.”