For Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the year-end giving season is particularly poignant, because it coincides with the deadliest time of year for accidents caused by drunk driving.
"There are more crashes that occur in the holiday time frame between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve than any other time of the year," says Debbie Weir, MADD chief executive.
That painfully direct tie with the organization’s mission is being marked Thursday as the organization culminates its 35th anniversary year and holds its first National Day of Remembrance, with more than 90 local events and digital memorials.
The theme for the day is "You always have a place." To honor those missing at the table, the group is encouraging families who have lost members to drunk-driving fatalities to create a personalized virtual place setting in their honor or memory. The tributes can be viewed online. Throughout the year, MADD has also been collecting recipes for a tribute cookbook now available for download.
Local affiliates are hosting events across the country, including candlelight vigils and potlucks with victims and survivors.
This month the advocacy group will also distribute 350,000 red ribbons and ribbon decals as part of Tie One On for Safety, MADD’s longest running campaign, which encourages drivers to hang the ribbon on their cars as a pledge not to drink and drive.
‘Our Job Is Not Done’
The organization counts many successes in spreading its message and seeing societal change. This week, it also enjoyed a fundraising boost.
On Giving Tuesday, the charity connected strongly with donors: A $200,000 matching gift from the Nationwide insurance company helped push a 54 percent increase in donations on the day over last year’s event. The organization has a goal of raising $300,000 by the end of the month. (Last year the group brought in $37.5 million in revenue, up from $35.8 million in 2013, according to MADD’s annual reports.)
Since the charity’ founding in 1980 by Candy Lightner, whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, the organization has helped cut the number of drunk-driving-related traffic fatalities in half. They’ve also successfully advocated for the passage of laws in 25 states to require people convicted of driving while intoxicated to use an ignition interlock device — often a Breathalyzer installed on a vehicle’s dashboard — to deter future violations. Several states that have passed such laws have seen reductions in drunk-driving fatalities.
Today the organization’s efforts include advocacy to eliminate drunk and drugged driving, prevent underage drinking, and provide support services for victims and their families.
"We’ve changed the culture on drinking and driving in our 35 years, but our job is not done," says Amy George, MADD senior vice president for giving, marketing, and communications.
In November the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that the number of drunk-driving fatalities on U.S. roads had dropped below 10,000 for the first time since 2011. Yet drunk drivers were involved in 31 percent of the more than 32,000 traffic fatalities last year.
"It’s so critical that the public understands that the drunk driving issue is far from solved," she says. "It is a current, relevant, urgent problem that we can all solve together."