Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD): Anti-Alcohol

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980 by Candy Lightner. A drunk driver tragically killed her young daughter. And he was a repeating offender. The goal of MADD was to reduce drunk driving traffic deaths.

        1. Overview of MADD
        2. In Depth Look
        3. Resources

I. Overview: Mothers Against Drunk Driving

The group has been highly effective in raising public disapproval of drunk driving. Fortunately, there has been a dramatic drop in the proportion of alcohol-related traffic deaths. That’s due in large part because of its efforts. For more, visit Drinking and Driving.

The Drunk Driving Problem

mothers against drunk drivingAt one point MADD said that the problem of drunk driving had  largely been reduced. The problem was largely resulting from a “hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeal.” Most drivers who have had something to drink have low blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Few such drivers have fatal crashes.

On the other hand, only a few drivers have BAC’s higher than 0.15. However, many of those drivers have fatal crashes. For example, almost half of killed drunk drivers have a BAC of 0.16 (twice the legal limit) or higher.

Thus, the biggest problem in reducing drunk driving deaths now is the hard core of alcoholic drivers . They repeatedly drive with BAC’s of 0.15 or more. But MADD still chooses to go after social drinkers. And it wants to stop any driving after any drinking. Yes, even a sip. This change reflects the power of a growing neo-prohibitionition within MADD. And it’s been going oon for decades.

mothers against drunk driving
Candy Lightner

The founding president of MADD, Candy Lightner, left in disgust from the group because of its change in goals. “It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned,” she says. “I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”1 Ms. Lightner stresses the importance of distinguishing between alcohol and drinking on one hand and drunk driving on the other.2

Ms. Lightner has apparently put her finger on the problem. She says that if MADD really wants to save lives, it will go after the real problem drivers.3 Instead, it has become temperance-oriented.

A. MADD’s Goal: Is it Neo-Prohibitionist?

Mothers Against Drunk Driving stigmatizes light or moderate alcohol drinking. And it does so even when it has nothing to do with either being underage or driving. Here are three examples.

      • MADD sells a graphic showing two empty glasses of alcohol surrounded by the words assault, drowning, burns, rape and suicide.
      • It sells a graphic that equates beer with heroin by depicting a beer bottle as a drug syringe.
      • MADD sells a television ad insisting that “if you think there’s a difference” between heroin and alcohol, “you’re dead wrong.”

MADD has clearly become not simply anti-drunk driving or even anti-impaired driving. It’s now anti-drinking.

For more about MADD’s anti-alcohol views visit A in part II below.

B. MADD’s Use of “Science”

Unfortunately, Mothers Against Drunk Driving often uses junk science to promote its agenda. For example, MADD former vice president Ralph Hingson made a statistical assertion in support of MADD’s policy agenda. However, the U.S. DOT had been unable to establish the statistic after 15 years of careful research. The U.S. GAO made a report to Congress. It said the Hingson claim was “unfounded.” Yet MADD continues quoting the guesstimate as fact.4

To learn more about MADD’s use of junk science, see B in part II below.

C. MADD’s Focus on Money and Fund-Raising

mothers against drunk driving
MADD’s top To Do List

Non-profit groups typically permit their chapters to keep most of the money they raise. For example, Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) chapters get to keep 90% of all funds they raise.

But Mothers Against Drunk Driving claims ownership of every penny raised by all its many chapters. For example, the Las Vegas chapter raised $129,000 locally. It turned it all over to national MADD, as it demands.  In exchange, the national office sent the chapter only for $1.29 as its share.5  That’s only 1/1,000 of what the chapter raises! MADD’s “focus is on greed,” said the chapter head. She said “I’ve never seen such bloodsuckers!”6

All items in some issues of the MADD e-newsletter focus entirely to MADD’s primary mission of fund-raising. Often there are no pleas for sober driving, no calls for more sobriety checkpoints, and no news reports. Just fund-raising appeals.

mothers against drunk drivingMADD’s web site lists all local chapters. A plea to “Donate Locally” follows each listing. This is clearly deceptive. It implies that funds given to local chapters will be handled differently than funds given to the national office. In reality, all funds must go directly and completely to the national office for use as it sees fit.

For more about MADD’s lust for money, go to C in part II below.

D. MADD’s Contempt for Drivers’ Constitutional Rights

Anger fuels MADD. In fact, its original name was Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. As a leading researcher on drunk driving observes, MADD is focuses on

the demand for justice or vengeance on the group that took the lives of friends and children. This warrants harsh punishment, whether or not deterrence is achieved. It also leads to rejection or a lack of enthusiasm for policies that promise to save lives of crash victims without regard for the cause of an accident.7

A case in point. Research suggests that using a cell phone while driving may cause more traffic deaths than drunk driving. An interviewer asked a MADD official how traffic death statistics from cell phone use compare to those from drunk driving. His answer was simple. “I have absolutely no idea, nor do I care.”8 The reason is that MADD sees other causes of traffic crashes as competitors for money.

mothers against drunk drivingA Canadian judge sentenced a repeat drunk driver to restrictions. They included electronically-monitored severe limits on his mobility on condition he remain in treatment for his alcoholism. The driver had maintained a long period of sobriety before experiencing a relapse. In handing down the sentence, the judge cited scientific research. Itshowed that severe punishments are ineffective in deterring drunk driving by alcoholics. Therefore, she developed a sentence designed to reinforce the long-term effectiveness of his rehabilitation.

This sentence outraged the president of MADD Canada. The group blasted the judge. It wanted severe punishment rather than rehabilitation.9

See more about MADD’s contempt for driver’s Constitutional rights, visit D in part II below.

Overview Summary

MADD’s original goal was a very important one. It was to reduce drunk driving and the deaths and injuries it causes. However, as its founder said, the group has become neo-prohibitionist. As a former MADD chapter head explains, it’s “a big corporation” and “all about money.”  Unfortunately, what began as a dedicated volunteer group of caring women has become a self-serving bureaucracy.


Alcohol a threat

» The head of one MADD chapter warns that “alcohol is a threat to society.”10 Actually, it’s the abuse of alcohol that’s the problem.

» MADD will “vigorously” work to stop alcohol funding for celebrations of Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth. Attacking such funding is not related to reducing drunk driving. Neither was MADD’s earlier press release. It carried the title “Fewer Liquor Stores in LA Equals Reduced Crime.” Yet made no mention of drunk driving.11

» Johnson and Wales U. is a cooking school. Thus, it includes the study of wine. So it requested a bill from the Florida legislature. That bill would permit adult students age 18 and older to engage in wine savoring. Of course, no student would drink alcohol. They would savor it and and then spit it out. Furthermore, they would do so in a supervised classroom. In spite of these strong protections and no danger, MADD refused to support this bill.12


» MADD spokesman David Delulis insists that “today’s underage drinker is tomorrow’s drunk driver.”13 That’s a sobering assertion. However, it’s false.

Think about it. A large majority of young people over the past 75 years have drunk alcohol. Therefore, if MADD were correct, the majority of drivers today would be drunk drivers. Again, MADD is wrong.

MADD loses its credibility by making very false statements.

County fair

» A county fair sought approval for very limited sale of beer and wine. It would be in a restricted area. In addition, a six-foot high fence would surrounded it. However, MADD strongly opposed the idea. One representative of MADD said “this event is a family-oriented event and we don’t need (beer).” MADD’s chapter head said that if beer service exists, her family “will no longer attend the fair.”14

» Cheerwine is a non-alcoholic soft drink selling in Southern states for over 75 years. However, MADD objects to the name “Cheerwine.” Also that the soft drink’s market includes those under the age of 21!15

» MADD opposes permiting adults age 19 and 20 actively serving in the military to drink alcohol within Michigan. Says one legislator, “we’re treating these young men and woman as adults when they’re at war. But we treat them like teenagers when they’re here in the states.”16

Cell Phones

mothers against drunk driving» Cell phone use while driving is as dangerous as driving with a BAC of 0.08. MADD refuses to even discuss the matter.17 On the other hand, MADD actively opposes any alcohol drinking by anyone under the age of 21. It does so even when there’s no possibility of driving.

In short, MADD ignores dangerous cell phone use while driving. Yet it adamantly opposes letting 20-year-old adults actively serving in the U.S. military enjoying a drink. It also opposes the participation of an underage person in religious services involving alcohol. It even opposes adults under the age of 21 toasting their mutual love at their wedding with champaign.18

» Most alcohol-related traffic deaths occur when other causal factors exist. These include things such cell phone use, fatigue, or drug use. Also, new drivrs, road rage, speeding, poorly lit roads, and not using seat belts. And, of course, most traffic deaths don’t involve any alcohol at all. If MADD really wanted to reduce traffic deaths, it would also care about these other causes of traffic deaths. But it clearly doesn’t. MADD is now an anti-alcohol group.

» MADD says that it’s not neo-prohibitionist. But in its own press release shows otherwise. It says that “MADD is calling on our country’s leaders to help advocate for the rights of young people to grow up in alcohol-free environments.”19 MADD claims not to be a temperance group. However, its actions prove otherwise. What is an “alcohol-free environment“ if not a dry or prohibition one?

Delivery service

» A service in Orlando delivers alcohol beverages to people of proven legal drinking age. The head of Campus Health at the University of Central Florida supports the idea. That’s because it could reduce drunk driving. “If it takes one drunk driver off the road, it’s a good thing” she said. She also added that the service is “really trying to be pro-active.”

To prevent underage purchases, the service requires buyers to show their drivers licenses. It then digitally photos them.

The service sells only to adults of legal age and this may reduce drunk driving. However, the head of the local MADD chapter calls it “frightening.” She says that’s because there is no sure way to make sure none ever reaches anyone under 21. Of course, that’s also true of alcohol from elsewhere.

MADD’s opposition appears to have more to do with its anti-alcohol attitudes than with logic.20

Season tickets

mothers against drunk driving» The Tampa Bay Lightning offered patrons free beer during playoff hockey games if they bought season tickets. The offer’s limit was four beers. Servers are all trained to detect intoxication. They won’t serve anyone who appears to be high. In addition, the club offers free taxi rides home for anyone who thinks they’ve had too much to drink. About 25 patrons took advantage of the marketing offer. Also, there were no complaints against the promotion.

Nevertheless, officials at MADD were very angry. “It’s advertising irresponsible behavior. It’s a huge insult to our community,” insisted one MADD leader. Another MADD official said “they’re obviously using alcohol to get business.”

They were offering alcohol, not cocaine, heroin or other illegal drugs. Apparently MADD believes that drinking itself, even moderately, is irresponsible. It views alcohol is an unacceptable product.

Alcohol testers

mothers against drunk driving
Example of personal alcohol breath tester.

» The Arizona State Department of Public Safety wants to stop drunk driving crashes among young people. So it proposed providing high school students with personal alcohol testers. The package clearly states that it is best not to drive even at low BAC levels. In addition, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety promotes the plan. It views this as the first part of a campaign to reduce alcohol-related crashes. Also, many parents praised the plan. Yet MADD  strongly opposes it. MADD sees this as inconsistent with its strict abstinence message.21

» MADD may continue to become even more anti-alcohol. For example, over 100 youth attended a four-day MADD Power Camp to prepare them for leadership roles in the group. Of course, these young MADD activists oppose drunk driving. So does everyone else. But many of these leaders-in-the-making oppose much more than drunk driving. They oppose all alcohol ads. They oppose any media portrayal of moderate drinking. Some even oppose moderate drinking by adults of any age at any time under any circumstance.22

 B. MADD Uses Junk Science

» Former MADD official Ralph Hingson continues to churn out flawed reports used by the group. For example, he has estimated that alcohol kills 1,400 college students (now raised to 1,700) each year. But there is evidence that the number may be closer to 16 students each year. Yet MADD presents Hingson’s estimates as solid facts. It also conveniently neglects to mention his connection to the group.23. 

Ad campaign

» A MADD ad campaign against underage drinking included purported “facts” linking alcohol to weight gain, rape and STDs. But they weren’t based on good evidence, says the Wall Street Journal. Pro-MADD researchers Drs. James Mosher and Robert Reynolds criticized MADD’s misuse of statistics.

After reviewing MADD’s ads, Dr. Reynolds informed MADD that “this is really sloppy, inadequate and embarrassing…. It imperils the integrity” of MADD. MADD’s assertion that underage drinkers are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than abstainers made Dr. James Mosher “cringe,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Mosher stressed that there is no research “that shows there’s a cause and effect and that’s being implied” by MADD.24

» Pioneering researcher Dr. H. Laurence Ross reported that increasing the severity of punishments for drunk driving has only a short-term impact. Then MADD turned on him with a vengeance. It even accused Dr. Ross, a respected scholar, of being the drunk driver’s best friend. [orig footnotr 67 here?] Actually, Dr. Ross is a strong foe of drunk driving who began studying the problem long before the existence of MADD. He has identified research-based evidence of which policies are most effective in reducing drunk driving. Yet for him, they are not always consistent with MADD’s proposals.


» MADD makes misleading statements about

mothers against drunk driving
Misleading people.

the number of people killed by drunk drivers. This, in an effort to exaggerate the extent of the problem. But it’s already a very serious problem and there’s no need to exaggerate it.  Yet doing so helps MADD’s fundraising. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that MADD’s PR makes “the problem look bigger than it is.”25

» Research in North America has repeatedly shown that the average BAC of drivers in fatal crashes is about 1.7. This is over twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Yet MADD Canada insists that the problem of hard-core drunken drivers is a myth. It even co-authored a paper titled “The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Hard-Core Drinking Driver.”26

Lower BAC

mothers against drunk drivingMADD Canada calls for lowering the legal BAC down to 0.05 from the current 0.08. It  says that “scientific evidence” supports its position. In reality, it doesn’t. MacLean’s, a leading Canadian magazine, points that

MADD selectively cites a study published by Robert Mann of the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Mann, in turn, had extracted those numbers from two separate studies whose data was culled from Sweden and Australia. The conclusions in Mann’s study seem to ignore the Swedish authors’ numerous caveats and cautions. As well as the limitations inherent to the Australian study. For starters, the Aussie study examined the effectiveness of spot checks, not lower BAC on fatal traffic collisions. Also, that research was initiated at a time when liquid lunches were far more common. What’s more, the Australian statistics contained wide variations….”27

They all disagree with MADD

The Canada Safety Council, Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation all disagree with MADD.

The Ontario Community Council on Impaired Driving reports that most drivers in fatal traffic crashes have a very high BAC. MacLean’s says that the problem is drivers who repeatedly drive with BAC levels twice the legal limit, not social drinkers. The MADD proposal would make it illegal for a small woman to drive after having a single drink. Also, it would divert police away from high-risk, high BAC, hard-core drivers.

C. MADD’s Money isn’t Mad Money

Yet more money

mothers against drunk driving» Mothers Against Drunk Driving is always hungry for more money. It has enormous assets. Yet it pays huge fees to raise tens of millions of dollars per year. The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) said “we’d like to see MADD spend a lot more money on things other than asking more money.”28 MADD has spent almost two out of every three dollars raised on fund-raising. Thus, the AIP downgraded its evaluation of the organization to a “D.”

mothers against drunk drivingThe head of Mothers Against Drunk Driving refused to talk with a television station about MADD’s fundraising.29 He refuses to be accountable to the same public from which MADD solicits money. Indeed, MADD has spent twice as much on fundraising as the AIP finds acceptable. It would appear that raising money has become an end in itself at the MADD bureaucracy. It has with many employees, high salaries, expensive fringe benefits, and huge retirement funds.30

Refused to talk

mothers against drunk drivingAn official of the AIP said MADD should spend a lot more on programs than on fund-raising.31 But the head of MADD refused to talk with a TV station about MADD’s fundraising.32 So he refuses to be accountable to the same public from which MADD solicits money.

» MADD Canada has long assured donors that it spends their contributed money well. Fundraising pitches say “83.6 per cent of your donation is spent directly on MADD Canada programs.” It says they’re spent it to reduce drunken driving, help victims of alcohol crashes, and engage in lobbying. But a report by the Toronto-Star reveals a very different story.33

The paper examined official reports that MADD Canada must submit to the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate. That agency regulates charities. It turns out that most of MADD’s money actually goes to fundraising and administration. So only 19 per cent of donations go for its programs and services!


mothers against drunk driving So instead of MADD’s claim that 83.6% of donations go to fund its programs, only 19% does. Why the big discrepancy? Because MADD counts payments to fundraisers as charitable work. It claims they educate potential donors as they make their pitch.

But the AIP and similar groups have long insisted that such a practice is deceptive. Hence, it’s unacceptable. An official of the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate says the practice is prohibited.34

In spite of this, MADD Canada’s head, Andrew Murie, argues otherwise. He insists that its practice of counting payments to fundraisers as charitable work is acceptable. Murie insists that it’s one of “the acceptable principles of allocation of expenses in Canada.”  He even insists that the regulator gave him permission to do so. But the Charities Directorate disputes his contention. It says the practice is clearly prohibited.

The Charities Directorate warned MADD. It wrote MADD “made incorrect allocations of expenditures between those incurred of a fundraising nature from those funds spent on charitable activities.”35

Murie’s response

Murie said Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s accounting practice was approved by the regulator. Yet the Directorate says this method is not approved. It stresses that charities must carefully distinguish their good works from their fundraising campaigns.36

MADD chapters across the country demanded in a conference call that Murie order an outside independent audit. But he refused and only agreed to an internal self-review of its finances.

“There should be an independent accounting firm reviewing these allegations,” Lynne Magee, founder of MADD’s Huron County chapter. She said the group found the MADD leader to be uncooperative. “We were met with an arrogant response, that MADD has its own accounting firm to handle this,” Magee wrote.

Veteran volunteers oppose deceitful fundraising.  Also they’re unhappy that Murie refuses reveal MADD finances. That includes salaries and management costs.37


Canada gave John Bates its highest civilian award for his work starting MADD Canada. Yet MADD stripped him of his membership in the corporation’s finance and policy committees. That happened shortly after a newspaper story exposing highly questionable fundraising practices quoted him.

“This seems to be in response to asking too many questions,” Bates said. “But I don’t believe in spending donor money the way MADD head office does” he said. Adding “and I feel I had a responsibility to speak out.” He says the group is punishing him for questioning it’s fundraising techniques. He also feels a sense of betrayal.

Long-time MADD volunteer Nancy Codlin reacted with dismay when she learned what had happened to Mr. Bates. “It’s a sad day when the founder of MADD [Canada] cannot ask questions.”38

Mr. Bates complains that “MADD has become a money machine working on fear and scare tactics.”  He said that “MADD head office has taken a national tragedy and turned it into a fundraising machine.”

Doesn’t like questioning

mothers against drunk drivingMADD has never liked any questions by anyone about its finances. After the Las Vegas chapter asked financial questions, MADD closed it.  MADD “threatened” a state treasurer after he asked questions.

» MADD has partnered with a gambling corporation. It was to produce a series of gambling events as part of its “Charity Poker Gone MADD Tournament Series.”39

This isn’t the first time that MADD has promoted gambling. Earlier, MADD pushed gambling events to follow high school proms! The law sponsored by MADD enabled the Pequot tribe to create the world’s most profitable casino.


mothers against drunk drivingMADD strongly opposes letting parents or priests serve alcohol to adults under the age of 21. Yet it promotes gambling among young adults. However, 18 to 21 year old adults are about three times more likely to have problems with gambling. That’s according to Dr. Rachel Volberg. She’s the leading expert on compulsive gambling. More specifically, 18 to 20 year-olds make 8% of the adult population. But that group has 23% of adults with gambling addiction.

Perhaps MADD should re-think its promotion of gambling, even though it gets income for the corporation.

Will Sell principles

» The Center for Consumer Freedom says that Mothers Against Drunk Driving

…will sell out its principles to keep its coffers full. One noteworthy case was the battle over two California ballot initiatives. They would  permit an automobile accident victim to sue the at-fault driver’s insurance company if legal claims weren’t paid promptly. Considering that victims of DUI would gain a legal tool, Californians expected MADD to be in favor of these measures. However, MADD aligned itself with a group of out-of-state insurance companies. They collectively ran a $1 million-per-week advertising campaign against the propositions.

It continues that

MADD defended its position. It said drunk drivers, if convicted only of lesser charges, could sue insurance companies under the proposed law. California’s Attorney General disagreed, ruling that [the bill] could never give drunk drivers new rights. However, MADD never budged from its contradictory position. The organizations motive? Greed, plain and simple. MADD’s annual report acknowledges Allstate Insurance Company for a gift in the “$250,000 and above” category. Nationwide Mutual Insurance gave over $100,000 for its share of the political cover.40


MADD is also “cozy” with its other major donors, including General Motors, Chrysler, and Nissan. Actually, they’re more investors than donors. GM is a good example.

GM and MADD have formed a mutually profitable relationship. In return for GM’s financial support, MADD stays conveniently silent on traffic safety issues outside of ‘impaired driving.’ GM, meanwhile, is vociferous in its opposition to any drinking before driving, buying itself immunity from MADD’s potential criticism for encouraging speeding.41   

Speeding is a factor in about 31 percent of all fatal crashes. Yet GM very promotes speeding as great fun in order to sell its cars.

What does MADD say about speeding? Nothing. As Ohio MADD said, “Speeding isn’t our thing.”

GM makes three of what Consumer Reports calls the “Four Deadliest Cars of All Time.” But by giving millions of dollars to MADD, the auto giant seems to have bought its silence.


mothers against drunk driving

    • General Motors becomes a corporate sponsor of MADD.
    • GM commissions a Gallup Poll on roadblocks supported by MADD.
    • General Motors donates $110,000 to MADD.
    • GM’s Charles Babcock becomes MADD’s national chair.
    • Babcock argues against drunk driving sensors for cars. MADD is silent.
    • GM made a five-year, $2.5 million “corporate partnership” with MADD. Also, it and gave $500,000 to MADD to kick it off.
    • General Motors co-sponsors one of MADD’s campaign and gives money to MADD’s magazine, DRIVEN.
    • GM blocks a bill penaltizing companies for making faulty vehicles. MADD is silent.
    • Former GM Vice Chairman Harry Pearce joined MADD’s National Advisory Board.
    • GM donates $542,180 to MADD, and GM-subsidiary Chevrolet donates $120,000.
    • General Motors increases death risks with more distracting onboard devices. MADD is silent.
    • GM introduces a new concept car with a 1,000 horsepower engine. MADD is silent.42

Coincidence? You decide.

Safer cars

» The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety both collect statistics. They have long found that many vehicle models have very poor safety records. Improving such models might save thousands of deaths each year. And laws requiring auto makers to meet higher safety standards on all vehicles might save thousands more.

So why doesn’t Mothers Against Drunk Driving push for safety improvements? After all, it’s such a logical way to help reduce traffic crashes.

GM, Mitsubishi, and Chrystler are three of the four “Platinum Corporate Sponsors” of MADD. That’s the honor roll of top financial contributors. Does MADD let its desire for multi-million dollar contributions influence its position on safety issues?43

Just asking.

More about cell phones

mothers against drunk driving» An interviewer asked a MADD leader about deaths from cell phone use in comparison to those from drunk drivers.  He tellingly replied “I have absolutely no idea, nor do I care.” On CNN’s Crossfire, the president-elect of MADD refused to discuss cell phones and the traffic deaths they cause. She said “We’re not here to talk about cell phones. We’re here to talk about alcohol.” (Notice that she didn’t say “talk about drunk driving.) “Following more questions about how cell phones impair driving, the MADD leader snapped “I’m not going to talk about cell phones.” Similarly, a MADD lobbyist was quoted on the program as saying “I don’t care about deaths from cell phones.”44

The Cellular Telecom Industry Association gave free wireless phones to MADD chapters throughout the country. They did so along with free airtime. Perhaps MADD’s lack of concern for deaths caused by cell phone results from that fact. As the head of MADD exclaimed, “This is a tremendous shot in the arm for our organization.”

Just another coincidence? Perhaps.

» Another top donor to MADD is Takata, a manufacturer of seatbelts. MADD uncharacteristically but very aggressively promotes the use of seatbelts.

This might only be yet another in a long string of coincidences. Draw your own conclusion.

Donors or business partners?

» When deciding if these are only coincidences, consider MADD’s pitches to potential “donors.”

What MADD Can Do For You. Aligning with MADD gives your company added credibility and increased power by:

      • Increasing store traffic and sales volume
      • Connecting with customers to provide incremental value to the consumer and sales lift to your company
      • Increasing partner distribution channels
      • Increasing shelf space and point-of-sale display space with key retailers
      • Winning national marketing and media awards
      • Increasing consumer and media awareness during key time periods
      • Giving national promotions “local legs” through MADD’s network of chapters
      • Mentioning your company during interviews in national media
      • Attracting national and regional media attention during sponsor-driven media events
      • Delivering targeted media campaigns with other MADD partners

Call MADD’s marketing department at 469-420-4518 to discuss how MADD can help your company meet its marketing and PR goals.45

As a former chapter head said, MADD is big business.

Yet another coincidence?

mothers against drunk driving» MADD’s Massachusetts chapter took no position in the heated debate over allowing more supermarkets to sell wine. Several supermarket chains have been substantial contributors of money to the chapter.

The PR director for the MADD chapter denies that money has anything to do with its neutrality. However, MADD virtually always opposes any law that increases the availability of alcohol to the public. For example, MADD Minnesota has strongly opposed supermarkets’ efforts to sell wine.46

Side business

»MADD has a clear economic motive to increase the number of drunk driving convictions. Therefore, it gives awards to officers who make progigeous numbers of such arrests. Also, MADD determines exactly the level of donation to itself. (Of course, a donation isn’t a donation if a person must pay it!)47

They are a very profitable business for MADD. VIPs contribute over $9,000,000 each year. However, there is little evidence that they are effective at all in reducing drunk driving.

Immunity from arrest

» Dozens of Congress members each year escape DWI arrests by invoking their congressional privilege of immunity.  (It’s Article one, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution.) The privilege was originally provided over 200 years. It was a to protect members of Congress from politically-motivated arrests. Doing so would prevent then from voting.

mothers against drunk driving
Members of Congress get them.

The privilege of immunity serves no useful purpose today. And it’s an affront to law-abiding drivers. MADD could pressures to stop its outrageous misuse. For example, it could lower the MADD “grade” of a state. That’s whenever a legislator from that state uses the priviledge.

But MADD is silent on the issue. It receives massive taxpayer funding through Congress. So it doesn’t want to ruffle feathers and jeopardize a rich source of income.


» A parent sponsored an illegal teen party with “free beer” for hundreds of high school students. And the same parent, according to students, sponsored at least three such teen parties with alcohol. This is exactly the sort of thing that outrages MADD.

Police have charged the parent with illegally allowing minors to drink alcohol. But in this case MADD has “withheld judgment” and is not criticizing the parent.

The parent is Gisela Zetsche, wife of the president and CEO of the Chrysler. It’s a major “Platinum Sponsor” investor in MADD. So MADD looks the other way rather than offend the hand that feeds it. Cynics might say that MADD has its priorities.48


Mothers against drunk driving» Shortly after the death of Diana, MADD produced an ad exploiting the event. This was in an effort to promote its legislative agenda. And after the mass murder at Columbine High School, MADD issued a press release trivializing the murders. They were “insignificant” in comparison to those killed in drunk driving crashes!

After 9/11, the president of MADD expressed frustration that the events of that day shifted attention away from the group. She attempted to capitalize on the tragedies of 9/11. In so doing, she insisted that “if anybody knows terror, I think the victims of drunk driving certainly do.”49

It’s hard to imagine that such words come from a group claiming to be an advocate for victims. Apparently, the only victims who count are those of drunk drivers. MADD trivializes other crashes and their victims. MADD has the right to believe as it wishes. But it should learn to be less blatantly self-promoting.

No distinction

Mothers Against Drunk Driving makes no distinction between “alcohol-related” and “drunken” crashes. But alcohol-related only means that officers think that anyone connected with the crash has been drinking.

On the other hand, a drunk driving crash occurs when a driver’s has a BAC estimate high enough  to be illegal. There’s a big difference between “had a sip” and “drunk.”

This is a very important distinction. Confusing people by equating the two is not in the public interest. Of course, it is in the interest of MADD’s fund-raising.

D. MADD’s Contempt for Drivers’ Constitutional Rights

mothers against drunk drivingMADD sometimes expresses hostility toward those who defend the rights of suspects. It assumes suspects to be guilty. Describing one defense attorney, a MADD leader said “He’s infamous. Everybody in MADD knows about him. We don’t welcome him in the community” because he’s “spreading out his poisonous influence” in protecting basic constitutional rights.50

All AA members?!!

One MADD leader goes even further. She argues that “there is merit in revoking licenses of diagnosed alcoholics, even if they do not have DUI convictions.”51 All AA members fall under MADD’s category of alcoholics. However, their goal is to abstain completely from alcohol for the rest of their lives.

Why should teetotaling alcoholics, AA members or otherwise, have their driver’s licenses revoked? Is this just vengeful punishment because some alcoholics drive drunk and have caused tragedy to MADD members?

MADD’s vengeance and hostility is even toward suspects of drunk driving. But also to anyone who disagrees with the group.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has a long tradition of hostility toward the rights of the accused. It assumes them to be guilty unless they can prove their innocence. MADD has a long history of doing this. Yet it admits that it has never verbally defended the rights or presumption of innocence of an accused defendant. And that’s regardless of the circumstances.51

MADD Canada

» MADD Canada is pressuring cities to drop ads on busses. The ads simply announce the availability of legal counsel for those suspected of drunk driving. The ad that outrages MADD simply states the following. “Impaired Driving Lawyers” along with a telephone number and website address.

MADD officials insist that announcing the availability of legal counsel sends the wrong message.  The message is “that it’s OK to drink and drive, because you can get away with it.”52

Lawyers point out that every Canadian has a right to legal counsel. They stress that everyone needs to understand this fact because impaired driving is such a serious crime with serious consequences. It’s not obvious how the ad promotes impaired driving, as MADD contends. To the contrary, the ad may serve to remind people that drunk driving is a very serious crime. In addition, it requires the services (and expenses) of a lawyer. Keeping people in the dark may make it easier to get a few more convictions by violating people’s constitutional rights. However, society must ask if this is a fair trade. Apparently MADD thinks it is.

Innocent until proven guilty?

» The national head of MADD Canada is “calling for police to have more power to nab impaired drivers.”53  MADD fails to understand that in North America, accused people are innocent until proven guilty.

The burden of proof is correctly on the state. MADD leaders should take re-take civics at their local middle schools. It’s in totalitarian societies that we assume people to be guilty and must prove their innocence.

» A prosecutor charged a woman with murder. She struck a pedestrian and failed to seek medical help for him. The defendant claimed the charge should not be murder. That’s because she was in a “daze” from drinking and drugging before the crash.

A MADD official was very angry at the defense. Stating “when she entered her defense, the judge should have taken it as a guilty plea to murder….” Continuing, “and immediately proceeded to the punishing phase of the trial.”54

Drunk not an excuse

Intoxication is never an acceptable defense for any action. But to deny a citizen the right to a trial because of that defense is, itself, indefensible. It reflects MADD’s hostility to peoples’ rights.

» A court ruling requires proof that a person’s BAC was at an illegal level while driving. That’s necessary for the person to be found guilty of drunk driving. That makes sense. For example, if the person got drunk after driving, they wouldn’t guilty. Such a person would be completely innocent. However, MADD has strongly criticized the ruling.55

» A law in South Carolina requires police to read suspects of impaired driving their Miranda rights. And they must do so before giving field sobriety tests. Lawmakers passed the law to prevent courts from overturning cases.

Yet MADD strongly opposed this law, which safeguards our rights.56

MADD angry

mothers against drunk driving» The Indiana State Court of Appeals declared as unconstitutional mandatory blood tests without cause after traffic accidents.

Sheriff John Marvel says the ruling won’t have any great effect on drunk driving enforcement. Officers can still require a blood test of drivers if probable cause exists. Probable cause is anything that suggests a person may have consumed any alcohol. For example, such things as slurred speech or the odor of alcohol.

Nevertheless, MADD is angry. A spokesperson objects to protecting drivers’ rights. Yet the Constitution guarantees them. But such rights make it “hard to prosecute people who’ve caused pain in the lives of others.” This is consistent with a large study of MADD members. It found members focus on “the demand for justice and vengeance.”57


mothers against drunk driving» A local chapter of MADD engaged in “reckless and irresponsible public behavior.”  That’s according to the Attorney General of Anderson County, Tennessee. Among other things, the MADD chapter had interfered in ongoing criminal investigations, including irresponsible vigilantism.

The MADD chapter accused a store of selling beer to a teenager. That teen later had an auto crash killing two people. However, a judicial hearing found that the beer hadn’t come from the business accused by MADD of this illegal behavior. Of course, there was no apology by MADD.

The MADD chapter defends its unfounded attacks and other illegal actions. It says they’re “within the policies and guidelines of MADD.”58  Clearly, MADD should change them.


MADD was originally a public service group to reduce drunk driving deaths. However, it has largely become an anti-alcohol bureaucracy. And it largely focuses on raising ever more money for itself.

III. Resources: Mothers Against Drunk Driving


MADDvocate. (mag.)

Lightner, C. From Grief to Anger. Making One MADD. In: Frantzich, S. Citizen Democracy.





      A. MADD is Anti-Alcohol

“MADD has morphed from an anti-drunk-driving organization into an anti-alcohol organization.” Jim Reynolds, writer.59

Prohibition ended about 80 years ago. Yet “a new agenda of temperance is alive and well today at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).” Charles Penna, former MADD chapter head.60

“At the forefront of the neo-prohibitionist movement is MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).” Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo of Washington U. and Dr. James Bennett of George Mason U.61

MADD “engages in a form of neoprohibitionism.” Christian Restifo, Carnegie Mellon U.62

“We believe their (MADD’s) true agenda is prohibition.” TalkLeft.63

A “prohibitionist movement [is] propagated by MADD.” Nat Motorist Ass’n.64

mothers against drunk driving
Al Franken

MADD “has turned into the new ‘Women’s Christian Temperance Union.'” Al Franken, former U.S. senator.65

      B. MADD is Neo-Prohibitionist

MADD is an “anti-alcohol group.” Robert Wood Johnson Found.66

MADD’s campaign is “anti-alcohol.” Chron of Higher Ed.67

MADD is an “anti-alcohol advocate.” AP.68 

MADD is led by “neoprohibitionists.” Jerry Munez, Seton Hall U.69

“MADD has a prohibitionist agenda.” Mimi Coffey, attorney.70

MADD has a “neo-prohibitionist agenda.” Chris Barry, Montreal Mirror.71

MADD has “a neo-prohibitionist agenda.” Equalbias72

MADD is guilty of “anti-alcohol hysteria.”Brian Carnell.73

MADD has “become anti-alcohol, pure and simple.” Jerry Mead.74

“MADD has morphed from an anti-drunk-driving organization into an anti-alcohol organization.” Laurence Simon.75

MADD has an “anti-alcohol campaign.” Prof. Jenny Edbaure, U. of Texas.76

MADD is “anti-alcohol.” Prof. K. Roehrig, Ohio State U.77

      C. MADD is Fanatical

MADD is “led and driven by anti-alcohol fanatics.” Gary Witzenburgh, Consumer Guide.78

“[T]he Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League spearheaded the constitutional prohibition effort. Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) assume that mantle today.” Hans Nichols.79

MADD is an outgrowth of “the ideology of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.” Prof. J. Leitzel, U. of Chicago.80

MADD is “the most effective temperance organization” in the U.S. since Prohibition’s repeal. David Frum, Wall Street J.81

“The Women’s Christian Temperance Union has merely been replaced by MADD.” Christopher Ivicevich.82

MADD consists of “closet neo-prohibitionists.” Thomas Clough.83

MADD supports “anti-alcohol legislation.” Carol Bryant.84

MADD is an “anti-alcohol group.” Casey Grabenstein.85

“One of the most powerful anti-alcohol lobbies is MADD.” Shobba Bhalla.86

“MADD encourages complete abstinence from drinking.” Am Addiction Centers (AAC).108

MADD’S “gotten greedy, it’s all about the money!” Great Nonprofits109

      D. MADD uses Junk “Science”

Its “inflated drunk driving statistics confirm MADD’s relevance and help it raise funds.” Radley Balco, writer.87

MADD’s report is “chock full of inaccuracies and errors,” but MADD officials have refused to comment on them. Jerry McCory, head, Governor’s Council on Impaired and Dangerous Driving.88

      E. MADD is Greedy

“MADD has become big bucks, and that’s it.” Also “It’s a big corporation.” Sandy Kaufman, former MADD chapter head.89

“MADD is going corporate” and “all they care about is the money.” Long-time volunteer.90

“It’s not like a non-profit anymore.” Former MADD leader Roz Cappiello.91

MADD is guilty of “dubious budget and fundraising tactics.” American Institute of Philanthropy.92

“One of the worst performance records (on spending inordinately to raise money, then spending below-average amounts on their stated mission) goes to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.” Daniel Puzzo describing MADD’s low grade by the independent American Institute on Philanthropy.93

“MADD continues to deceive.” Nat Motorists Ass’n.94

MADD Canada’s deceptive accounting practices are “definitely not allowed.” Elizabeth Tromp, director-general, Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate.95

      F. MADD has contempt for Constitutional rights

“MADD is just totally spiteful.” Palmer Didion, attorney.96

“MADD is spiteful, vindictive, judgmental, holier than thou, self-righteous and obnoxious.” Kevin, MADD employee.97

“MADD is a hate group, without question.” Darlene J. Dowling, Armed Females of America.98

“Nobody wants to be in MADD’s bad graces.” Bruce Freidrich, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.99

MADD “threatened me.” James Bostad, former MADD State Treasurer.100

MADD “displayed its contempt for civil liberties, as well as the judicial system, by calling for (a) judge to resign because she criticized a MADD-backed program she felt violated the constitutional rights of young adults.” Center for Consumer Freedom.101

MADD has become “overzealous.” Candy Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.102

“One must wonder has MADD gone mad?” Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.103

“MADD is out of control.” Talk Left.104

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is guilty of “demagoguery.” Washington Times.105

MADD “advocates ineffective authoritarian policies.” P. C. Brezezinski.106

“MADD has allowed its emotions to preempt its common sense, hoping, therefore, to drive up support for its cause.” S.G. Michalides.107


  1.  Activist Facts: Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

2. MADD as hell and not going to take it anymore. Broadcast, 108, 58.

3. Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) web site.

4. Activist Facts: Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

5. MADD Money. Investigative report, K5 News.

6. Ibid.

7. Ross, H. How to cope with MADD mothers. Am Soc, 18(2), 173-178.

8. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, CFS site.

9. Jail useless for drunk, judge says. Winnipeg Sun, Aug 9, 2013.

10. Bunch, B. Steer away from alcohol. Chillicothe Gaz, July 27, 2014.

11. MADD Seeks to Bridge Cultural Divide. PRnewswire, Sept 27, 2016.

12. Florida bill would allow wine tasting, Alco Bev Con.

13. Downing, T. Today’s underage drinker is tomorrow’s drunk driver. Enterprise, Sept 4, 2015.

14. Stockinger, J. Town board rejects beer sales at fair. Brainery Dis, Dec 8, 2014.

15. Miller, H. Soft drink has no wine, but plenty of cheer. Ad Age.

16. Ross, J. Let under-age soldiers drink, lawmakers say. Wis State J, June 11, 2015.

17. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Pushes for New Measures. CNN Crossfire, June 28, 2012.

18. Mothers Against Drunk Driving website.

19. Mothers Against Drunk Driving press release, June 19, 2013.

20. Baumann, C. Call for beer run answered. Orlando Sent, July 20, 2013.

21. Ariz. Students to Receive Alcohol-Test Kits. MADD Online, May 15, 2013.

22. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Power Camp, U CT, Aug 2-5, 2015.

23. College Drinking and Junk Science.

24. Mothers Against Drunk Driving over the edge? Alco Iss Insights, 16(6), 1-2.

25. O’Donnell, J. Mothers Against Drunk Driving enters 25th year with change on its mind. USA Today, Sept 29, 2015.

26. The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Hard-Core Drinking Driver.

27. MacDonald, N. Science? Or MADD as a hatter? MacLean’s, Dec 5, 2015.

28. MADD Money investigative report, K5 News, Seattle.

29. Ibid.

30. Mothers Against Drunk Driving IRS form 990.

31.  Donovan, K. MADD’s “exorbitant costs” anger volunteers. Toronto-Star, Dec 9, 2016.

32. Recksiedler, D. Mothers Against Drunk Driving stops fundraising for now. Vancouver News, Dec 13, 2016.

33. Mothers Against Drunk Driving halts fundraising for now, CTV Dec 13, 2016.

34. Donovan, K. Mothers Against Drunk Driving suspends fundraising, Toronto-Star, Dec 13, 2016.

35. __________. Mothers Against Drunk Driving  rejects critics. Toronto-Star, Dec, 10, 2016.

36. __________. Mothers Against Drunk Driving suspends fundraising, Toronto-Star, Dec 13, 2006.

37. __________. Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s outspoken founder punished. Toronto Star, Jan 17, 2017.

38. Ibid.

39. HollywoodPoker Announces Charity Poker Gone MADD Winner. Press release, Dec 14, 2015.

40. Mothers Against Drunk Driving. CCF site.

41. Group campagnes against GM, MADD. Auto News, Feb 14, 2015.

42. From many sources.

43. MADD site.

44. Mothers Against Drunk Driving Pushes for New Measures. CNN Crossfire, June 28, 2012.

45. Mothers Against Drunk Driving site.

46. Mohl, B. Liquor sellers hit MADD’s ties to supporters of wine measure. Boston Globe, Oct 5, 2016.

47. Mothers Against Drunk Driving IRS form 990.

48. Donnelly, F. Zetsche’s wife focus of teen booze scandal. Detroit News, Aug 16, 2015.

49. Bresnahan, S. op cit.

50. Nolin, R. “Infamous” DUI lawyer expands.  News J.

51. Kerkstra, P. Fessing up. Phil Enq Augt 8, 2014.

52. Mothers Against Drunk Driving upset with lawyers’ impaired-driving ads. CBC, Jan 5, 2016.

53. Drinkwater, R. More police power: MADD. Edmon Sun, May 17, 2013.

54. Forsyth, J. Defense outrages Mothers Against Drunk Driving. WOAI Radio, June 25, 2013.

55. Rodriguez, I. DWI cases handcuffed, San Antonio News, March 11, 2013.

56. Peras, A. Miranda rule in DUI law sparks debate. Greenville News, Aug 15, 2013.

57. MADD May Fight Court Decision, WTWO TV, Feb 18, 2013.

58. Fowler, B. Mothers Against Drunk Driving chief angry. KnoxNews, Nov. 8, 2013.

For Boxed Inserts

59. Reynolds, J. Electrolite, Jan 6, 2013.

60. Prohibition Ends! Has Anyone Told MADD? PR News, April 11, 2013.

61. DiLorenzo, T. and Bennett, J. The U.S. is becoming a nanny state. USA Today, 126, 12-15.

62. Restifo, C. Neoprohibition gone mad, Tartan, Sept 23, 2012.

63. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is Out of Control. TalkLeft, Jan 12, 2002.

64. Alcohol-Related Deaths Increase. Nat Motorist Assn press release, Oct 2, 2011.

65. Franken, Al. MADD media – I think they’re just crazy. Radio show.

66.  RWJ Foundation. ABI vs. MADD on .08. Monthly Rep.

67. MADD takes its anti-alcohol campaign to colleges. Chron Higher Ed, March 1, 2011.

68. AP. MADD: Anti-alcohol advocate. Dodge City Globe.

69. Munez, J. Case Study: Alcohol Ads, Seton Hall U.

70. Douglas, J. DWI billboard sparks controversy. WFAA-TV, April 22, 2014.

71. Barry, C. Montreal Mirror, 2012.

72. I’d be Madd Too. Equalbias site.

73. Carnell, B. Why all the furor over “Got… Beer?!” AnimalRights.

74. Mead, J. Mead on Wine.

75. Simon, L. Temperance thoughts. The Rant, Jan 6, 2013.

76. Edbauer, J. Rhetoric 309 syllabus, U Texas.

77. Roehrig, K. Alcohol and Society syllabus, Ohio State U.

78. Witzenburgh, G. DWI laws. Out of control. Consumer Guide.

79. Nichols, H. U.S. drinking culture. Insight, 2013.

80. Leitzel, J. Banning Direct Shipment of Wine, U Chicago.

81. Frum, D. When drinking was cool. Wall St J.

82. Ivicevich. C. Review of Drink A Social History.  Amazon.

83. Clough, T. Weird Republic site.

84. Bryant, C. “Tie one on for safety.” The Independ.

85. Grabenstein, C. PETA ads, “got beer?” Scene.

86. Bhalla, S. Take the fizz out of beer ads. Lycos Asia, Dec 16, 2012.

87. Balco, R. Targeting the social drinker is just MADD. LA Times, Dec 9, 2012.

88. Linder, C. State officials call MADD report inaccurate. SNS press release, Nov 21, 2012.

89. MADD Money investigative report, K5 News.

90. MADD’s move angers longtime volunteer. Lawrence World, Aug 30, 2015.

91. MADD split. WOWT TV, Feb 24, 2005.

92. Doyle, J. Tiny group grown into behemoth gone MADD. Pasa Star-News, Dec 4, 2012.

93. Puzzo, D. Give and Taken. Rest Insti.

94. NMA News, May 2016.

95. Donovan, K. MADD’s “exorbitant costs’ anger volunteers”. Toronto Star, Dec 9, 2016.

96. MADD at lawyer. Nat Law J, March 9, 1992.

97. Kevin (pers comm), Jan 30, 2019. Kevin remains anonymous to protect his job.

98. MADD a Hate Group! AFA site.

99. Green, S. Profile: MADD, PR Week, Jan 21, 2012, p. 8.

100. MADD Money investigative report, K5 News.

101. CCF site.

102. Activist Facts site.

103. FTCR site.

104. TalkLeft site, 2020.

105.  Power MADD, Wash Times, March 6, 2000.

106.  Brzezinski, P. Drunk until proven innocent. Crimson, Nov 21, 2016.

107.  Michalides, S.  MADD from hell. Wine Trade, Jan, 2015.

108.  AAC site, 2021.

109.  Great Nonprofits site.