The American Struggle Against Drunk Driving

The American Struggle Against Drunk Driving

In recent years, two organizations have been formed to combat the deadly menace of drunk drivers. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was formed to stop drunk driving, support the victims of it and prevent underage drinking. SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) was created to provide students with the best prevention and tools to deal with underage drinking, drug use, impaired driving and other destructive decisions. The two organizations take different approaches to drunk driving and each is succeeding in its own way.

MADD was founded in 1980 by Cindy Lightner, following the death of her 13 year old daughter who was killed by a drunk driver out of bail for a hit and run accident only two days earlier. Lightner and other mothers who had lost children to drunk drivers formed MADD in an effort to stop the more than 30,000 alcohol related driving deaths each year. They worked, not only to educate the public about the dangers of drunk driving, but to change societal attitudes about drinking and driving.

By 1982, MADD had established 100 chapters across the nation. MADD appeared in newspapers and on TV. It addressed lawmakers, presenting not just statistics, but the faces of the victims of drunk drivers. Thanks to their efforts, President Reagan signed into law the Uniform Drinking Age Act in 1984. MADD expanded its campaign from “Don’t Drive Drunk” to “Don’t Drink and Drive.”

To accomplish this, it has recommended higher beverage taxes, lower drunk driving arrest thresholds, and roadblocks designed to frighten people out of social drinking. It has also created Victim Impact Panels, where people convicted of driving while intoxicated hear the stories of parents, relatives and friends of victims of drunk driving accidents.

Twenty-six years after the founding of MADD, alcohol related driving deaths in the United States have been reduced to about 17,000 annually. Today MADD has 600 chapters, community action teams and offices in the United States.

SADD was founded by Robert Anastas of Wayland High School in Massachusetts as Students Against Driving Drunk in 1981. SADD emerged as a response to more than 6,000 young people being killed in alcohol related accidents each year. Anastas and 15 other students wrote the Contract for Life to facilitate communication between young people and their parents about potentially destructive decisions related to alcohol.

SADD’s approach to the problem was to develop peer-to-peer educational programs in school chapters ranging from middle schools to colleges. In 1997, SADD expanded its mission to include underage drinking, substance abuse, impaired driving, violence, and suicide. SADD’s programs are keyed to the needs of individual school locations. These include peer-led classes, forums, workshops, conferences and rallies, and other awareness-raising activities.

Over its first decade, SADD has worked with many federal and state agencies, nonprofit groups and foundations to get its message across. By 1990, due in part to the work of SADD, the number of young people killed in alcohol related accidents fell to 2,000 per year.

Both MADD and SADD have been influential in reducing the number of alcohol related deaths in the United States.

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