11/14/13 07:40AM Drunk Driving Campaign, DUI, MADD


Over 10,000 people were killed by drunk drivers in 2010. That’s a staggering number of lives lost as a result of a senseless act. However, in 1982, the number of people who died at the hands of a drunk driver was more than 21,100. What happened since 1982 that caused a drop of 52% in drunk driving fatalities? In one word- awareness.

Drunk driving ad campaigns and promotions began circulating in force in the early 80’s, and since then they have been instrumental in saving countless lives through raising awareness about the dangers of drunk driving. But, who are the groups behind those successful ads and promotions? Here, we highlight the work done by three organizations who have worked tirelessly to save lives by putting a spotlight on drunk driving.

The Ad Council

In 1983, the Ad Council, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), jointly began an ad campaign called the Drunk Driving Prevention campaign. The goal was to raise awareness about drunk driving and draw on people’s sense of personal responsibility. With ad taglines such as “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” and “Drinking and Driving Can Kill a Friendship”, the simple, but powerful message and associated visuals touched a nerve with the general public, and resonated deeply with the intended 16-24 year old demographic. As a prominent component in the fight against drinking and driving, the Ad Council’s campaign helped lead the United States to a 30 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities between 1983 and 1994. Several years later, in 1998, the United States saw the lowest-recorded number of alcohol-related deaths since the Department of Transportation started keeping records in 1982.

The Hero Campaign

Spurned into action by the death of their son at the hands of a drunk driver, Bill and Muriel Elliott started The Hero Campaign. The goal of this campaign is unique. Rather than focus on drunk drivers, The Hero Campaign honors the designated drivers who make the choice to help save lives. Currently active in seven states, the campaign partners with schools, local businesses, and law enforcement to help spread the word about the importance of choosing to be a designated driver.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Since its formation on May 7, 1980, the nonprofit organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been one of the most prominent and active forces in the campaign against drunk driving in the United States. The first MADD chapter was established in Florida, and has since grown to include chapters in every state, as well as Canada, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Here are a few highlights of the impact of this powerful anti-drunk driving organization:


       The organization lobbied hard to lower the legal blood alcohol limit from .10 to .08, and by 2005, .08 became the legal limit in every state.

       As one of the biggest victim services organizations in the United States, MADD helped 61,000 victims and survivors nationwide in 2012 by providing victim services free of charge.

       MADD representatives sponsor Victim Impact Panels because they feel strongly that the suffering of victims and their families should be a factor in sentencing. The VIP’s also travel to schools and other locations speaking to audiences about the impact that drunk driving has had on their lives.

While accident and fatality statistics vary by state, overall, the trend is a continued decline in the number of drunk driving deaths nationwide. The organizations listed here are but three of a countless number of groups in the United States who are to be applauded for helping to decrease total drunk driving fatalities across the country over the last 30 years.