Has MADD lost it's objectives?

First of all, would like to say. It’s my first post on these boards as I peruse the web for a nice new community that’s both tolerant and impassioned. And as such, would like to start with a post that’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

I’ll start off by admitting my biases. I’m a bartender, and I formerly worked at a liquor store. I am an avid drinker. I was raised by parents that worked as distributors of wines in Texas. Alcohol, and the appreciation of it, runs through my veins.

That all said, I can fully respect the anti-drunk driving movement that has swept the US over the last 30 some odd years. Anti-drunk driving laws are a nice thing, and when enforced I believe can actually have quite a positive effect.

However, MADD states their apparent goal as to oppose drunken driving. A noble cause, surely. But are their proposed remedies attacking the root of the issue? I would submit that they are, in fact, doing very little to further their cause but instead simply furthering the temperance movement.

If their actual goal was to reduce drunken driving, and not to further restrict the consumption of alcohol, would it not make more sense to lobby for increased mass transit hours after bars close? Would it not make sense to reduce cab taxes after hours? Would it not make sense to oppose a state-wide bar closure time so all the drunks aren’t on the road at once?

MADD is, for whatever reason, a reasonably strong lobbying organization. They’ve got some political power, but they choose to use it in ways that don’t work towards their means. They choose to oppose increasing bar working hours, they choose to lobby for speed limit decreases, they choose to lobby for lowering the BAC limit while driving, they choose to be in favor of increased alcohol taxes, they choose to oppose the package store sale of alcohol later.

And while their tactics-in theory-work in rural situations (although I rarely see less people willing to drive drunk, instead more people carpooling with a single drunk driver), they’re ineffective towards their ends for an urban one.

Seems to me, the best solution to drunk driving is to provide an alternative. Telling people there’s a 1 in 500 chance they’ll get stopped for DWI (which realistically, is what it amounts to) is not horribly dissuasive. Telling people they can’t buy beer after 12am, liquor after 9pm. but can go to a bar and drink until 12a or 2am (depending on their country, in Texas) in my mind encourages them to go away from home to drink. Increasing the alcohol taxes does little but fill government coffers and squeeze out businesses, as does increase fines for DWIs. Decreasing the BAC rate does little but squeeze businesses out of alcohol sales (a huge profit) and screw over customers that wish to drink, but not get drunk. Do you realize how little alcohol .08% BAC is? Hell, .1% is so little as well.

I just don’t understand why MADD can’t actively advocate graveyard mass transit shifts that work from bar districts to denser residential ones. I’d love to get drunks off the road, but their current means are simply not working. In (Paris)France, the non-US nation in which I have the most experience, they run busses (close most metro routes) on a very scaled back level late night, allowing the drunks a ride home. You’ll have to walk a few more blocks than usual, but all in all it’s worth it because you’ve both prevented the ticket, but also prevented the risk you didn’t want to take in the first place.

And I’ll leave it at that for now. Cheers.

Let’s just hope it’s under the legal limit.

Is this 19th century Kansas? I’m not all that worried about any renewed interest in a Temperance movement because people still remember what a success the Volstead Act was.

In Dallas? Mass transit there, from what I can remember, sucked and I doubt it’s improved that much since 2000. Also, I doubt anyone is going to want to spend the extra tax dollars it would take to keep the busses running throughout the wee hours of the morning.

Probably not. I doubt someone who is drunk and planning to drive would think “I’d take a cab but those damn taxes will kill me.” I just don’t see taxes entering into the equation.

You’ll have to explain to me how these things don’t forward their goal of preventing people from driving while intoxicated. I’m not saying they work but them seem like reasonable ideas for a group dedicated to limiting fatal alcohol related accidents. Oh, and please explain how their tactics work in rural regions.


It would seem clear that there are two ways to reduce the number of drunk drivers:[ol][li]Prevent those who had had too much to drink from drivingStop people from drinking too much[/ol]You seem to be advocating a focus on the first, while they seem to be focusing on the second. It could be argued that focusing on the second will have all sorts of other benefits (health of the drinker, decrease in alchohol related distubances/violence) to society which focusing on the first will miss.[/li]
[sup](P.S. Notice the self-control exerted in leaving the list at two points long)[/sup]

It would seem clear that there are two ways to reduce the number of drunk drivers:[ol][li]Prevent those who had had too much to drink from drivingStop people from drinking too much[/ol]You seem to be advocating a focus on the first, while they seem to be focusing on the second. It could be argued that focusing on the second will have all sorts of other benefits (health of the drinker, decrease in alchohol related distubances/violence) to society which focusing on the first will miss.[/li][/QUOTE]

If that’s their position, they need to order new stationery with a new truth-in-advertising organization name.

I think you’ll find the passion, but the tolerance varies. Much of this is because many board members follow in the cranky, smartass, and often dismissive/contemptous footsteps of Cecil Adams himself.

Intentions versus effects is a common theme in GD threads. In general clearly stated intentions trump effects unless it can be shown the actor knew their actions would lead to minimal success for their stated goals versus maximal effect for the alleged “real motive.” Demonstrating an alleged “hidden motive” for various actions is extremely difficult, which is as it should be.

Increased mass transit after hours: Would work in some areas which are highly urbanized with strong mass transit systems already. More suburban or “sprawled” cities/metropolitan areas have more difficulty with this suggestion. For example, Dallas Area Rapid Transit(DART) serves one of the most spread out metropolitan areas in the country. The Dallas/Ft. Worth area is home to the 8th and 27th most populous US cities(respectively). Let’s just look at the Dallas side of it. You’ve got the 8th most populous city in the nation, but in terms of population density(people/sq mi) it ranks far lower with only 2,900 persons per square mile(1990 census). It barely cracks the top 50 in terms of population density but is solidly in the top ten in numbers of people. This means DART has to run far more routes for longer distances to maintain service after hours. This is a serious cost when weighed against the benefit of making it easier for those who have had too much to drink to find alternate transportation.

Decreasing taxes on cab rides after hours: I wasn’t able to find any information on the tax rates for cab services. Do you have an cites on how much of a burden this is? If it only means a few cents to a buck or so on the overall fare then I don’t think this would be much of an enticement. Everyone has to pick and choose battles. Lowering the cost of a cab by even a dollar or so may be seen as too little benefit for the effort.

Statewide bar closing times: As a driver I like knowing there is a timeframe when all the bar patrons can be reasonably expected to be off the roads(say 3AM or later). Also I like knowing that earlier in the night they will likely still be in the bars instead of driving from one which closed earlier to one which is open later. I’m not sure what the legislative intent behind the closing times laws are, but I’m not sure how changing them would impact drunk driving. If anything I could see staggering them as increasing the number of intoxicated drivers as they travel from bar to bar to get to ones which are open later.

Do you have cites for these claims? MADD has a pretty strong web presence at MADD.org and they have position statements, selections of legislation and their suggestions for the wording, etc. I’d like to see exactly what they’re saying on these topics before I decide if their stated goal of reducing drunken driving is a facade and they are really a temperance movement. In the interest of full disclosure I work across the street from MADD’s national headquarters and one had a lovely lunch in a resturant in the same plaza. That’s about as far as my personal involvement goes though.

In Dallas they’d be up against the hard reality that it would be EXTREMELY expensive to keep sufficient bus routes open to provide realistic alternatives. If the majority of bars were in a red light district in downtown this would make it easier, but this is not the case in a large number of cities in the US.


In Washington D.C., MADD did in fact lobby for late-night metro hours, in an unusual alliance with bar and restaurant owners. They were successful in extending metro hours pretty close to last call.

Washington, DC had(in 1990) a population density of 9,884 persons/sq mi. This places it about eleventh in the nation for population density among the top 100 largest cities. This is more than three times the density of Dallas and with a higher density than fourteen of the eighteen cities with larger populations. Only New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia have both larger populations and higher population density.


I should have made it clear that I was replying to the OP’s assertion that MADD wasn’t working for extended mass transit at all, rather than your points about Dallas.

I understood that, sorry if it looked like I was rebutting or contesting your contribution. I was using it as a datapoint in my arguement that the utility of increased public transportation times decreases rapidly in less dense urban areas.

I appreciate the information about MADDs efforts in DC. I may go through their website and poke at it a bit to see if I can turn up briefs or documents related to what they did in DC to find keywords to see if they have done it in other dense urban areas like Philadelphia or Chicago.



All very good, very researched points. Y’all are dead on.

And I think I’ve found myself a new board finally.

Thanks all.

I’ll make a deal with you MAGunter. If you put together a good arguement for where MADD is going wrong and how they are accomplishing more of the goals of a temperance movement than the goals of an anti-drunk-driving movement then I will personally print the thread and take it across the street and hand-deliver it to the highest official of the organization who will deign to meet with me.

This won’t be an easy task because I’m going to vet the arguements pretty thoroughly(as will other GD posters I’m sure). This is only fair though because if I show up with an arguement which falls apart on examination I will look like a dumb ass for bringing it to MADD headquarters. I don’t like looking like a dumb ass, even though I’m sure it happens from time to time.


It’s worth noting that the shift in MADD strategy, from a purely advocacy-against-drunk-driving stance to a vaguely anti-drinking stance, happened at roughly the same time that the rate of drunk driving fatalities plateaued. The anti-drunk-driving movement was very effective up to a point; as recently as the mid-1970s, about 60-65$ of all traffic fatalities were caused by drunks. That number dropped steadily, thanks largely to our new social attitudes towards drunk driving. In the mid 1990s, however, the percentage of traffic fatalities attributable to drunk driving hit 40% and essentially froze there. (This is for the United States and Canada; the figures are very close for the two countries, though there is some variance between states and provinces.)

The truths behind MADD’s change in direction are essentially wrapped up in three facts:

  1. The number of people being killed and hurt by drunk drivers is still appalling.

  2. Pure education and advocacy stopped working to lower the drunk driving rate at least ten years ago; the people today who still insist on driving drunk are clearly not going to be swayed by television advertisements and gory videos. We’ve hit the limit.

  3. Consequently, the people who are charged with solving this problem are really, really frustrated.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with people in highway enforcement in both the USA and Canada, and this problem drives them absolutely apeshit. Drunk drivers are a horrible, horrible menace; the number of Americans who have died in Iraq since the beginning of the current Iraq War is less than the number of Americans killed in six weeks by drunk drivers. The progress made from the 70’s up to, oh, 1995 or so saved - this is not an exagerration - at LEAST one hundred thousand lives in the United States alone. (MADD claims 300,000, but I cannot understand how they came up with that figure.) I mean, a HUNDRED THOUSAND PEOPLE. You start to understand the ghastly extent of the problem. And that was just cutting it by one third.

I appreciate the OP’s love of a good night of responsible drinking, but let’s look at this honestly; Alcohol is the most destructive drug in the history of the human race, and it’s understandable that MADD, being tasked with reducing drunk driving deaths, is trying to get people to drink less of it. They were successful up to a point in getting people to not drive drunk by impressing upon people the importance of separating drinking from driving. Now that that’s gone as far as it can, what else would you suggest they do?

As I see it there’s pretty much three ways to reduce drunk driving:

  1. Convince people not to drive when they’re drunk.
  2. Convince people not to drive.
  3. Convince people not to drink.

(1) breaks down as follows:

1A: Convince people not to drive when they’re drunk through public education.
1B: Convince them through heavier law enforcement.

1A has gone as far as it’s going to go, and MADD is certainly working on 1B, but the extent to which you can enforce existing laws is limited by the capacity to afford more cops.

You’re never going to accomplish (2), so they’re working on (3).

I mean, what else are they gonna do? I’m honestly curious as to what solutions people would propose.

I’m against anyone who supports lowering the speed limit, and I agree with you.

Actually, RcikJay, I’m kinda behind idea (2), not only to cut down on drunk driving but for environmental and National security reasons too. Not that I think this has a prayer of happening, but I’d love too see a revitalization of centralized urban areas with more use of mass transit. One of the good things about living in the city is that one can drink as much as one wants and not worry about the drive home. At worst you’re an inexpensive cab ride away.

I’ve always been baffled by suburban bars. How do people get there and back without driving drunk? And why isn’t the man lined up outside picking off drunk drivers like he was shooting fish in a barrel?

RickJay, that is

I honestly don’t think this is making a huge dent in the number of people driving drunk at night. These buses are few (less than ten different routes, I believe, and only one bus/hour on each route), and they don’t go far away from the city center. On a population of 2 millions in Paris proper and 10 millions in the urban area, even if they were all filled to the roof with drunk people (which they are not, and they weren’t created for this purpose anyway), I doubt it would make a very significant difference.
Actually (still speaking about France) the most conclusive experiments involving public transportation seem to have taken place precisely not in urban areas but in rural ones, where there’s very few places were people are likely to get drunk. So, the (free) bus just has to pick up people in a couple places when they close and drop the drunks in the nearby villages.

How about MADD’s influence on police department budgets? Many police departments have an extra “DUI” budget. This allows a police force to have officers who specialize in DUI cases. This is usually extra money allocated above and beyond the normal police funding for a municipality. However, should the number of DUI arrests fall, then there would be a need for less funding. Thus, officers are forced to find more and more DUI arrests even though they may have very little to do with a person who is actually driving on a street while intoxicated.

Second, how about MADD’s influence in passing laws? In almost every state in the United States, you can be arrested for drunk driving and have your license suspended without trial for either failing or refusing a breath test. No trial by jury nor judge. If you should get convicted, you’ll get double jeopardy because your license will be suspended again.

MADD may have once served a useful purpose. They are a prohibition group and they lie. They have no interest in reducing drunk driving. They have every interest in bringing back prohibition. The national .08 BAC limit is just the latest example. They’ll be back asking for .06.

They also love the mandatory donation that people in TX are forced to make to them should they be convicted. Perhaps the Catholic Church should have asked for mandatory tithing when someone was convicted of heresy.

I’m honestly not sure that there is a “solution” to drunk driving, and even if there were I hardly believe it’s something I can come up with. There are numerous issues though one must consider before any proposition can be taken seriously;

a) The effects of the alcohol industry as a whole on local, state, and the National economy. Anheuser-Busch alone has revenues in excess of $13 billion and every dollar of that is taxed on local, state, and federal levels.

b) Alcohol is a drug, and prohibition efforts are as doomed to failure as those of marijuana and other drugs. In fact, there are several Historical attempts at prohibition (the UK Gin Riots and US prohibition are just two) that prove any attempt would be folly.

c) Alcohol is not the devil, it is not the source of all of society’s ills. Alcohol is almost as old as humanity itself and does have some value beyond simply causing drunken-ness. The amount of value is debateable, but it’s no coincidence that nearly every society in the world consumes some form of alcohol. It is, however, addictive as well.

d) No solution will ever be fool-proof. You could give everyone a matter transporter to get themselves home with after a night at the bar and some idiot would still probably get in the car and drive home.

That all said;

I believe the best solution is to provide alternatives to driving home. Simple education has done all it can do, just as with anti-drug and anti-sex campaigns. There are numerous proposals I’ve heard regarding this, including everything from requiring bars to pay for cabs for intoxicated patrons (and being responsible for them) to increasing post-bar mass transit. There are both pros and cons to both proposals, as well as other proposals.

Dalej42 mentioned police budgets, and that’s a big reason that you’ll see municipalities and police departments in favor of reducing the BAC limit. Public Intoxication, DWI/DUI, and other alcohol related offenses are a huge source of revenue for police departments. $2-5,000 DWI citations are far more profitable than $200 speeding citations, not to mention they ensure a night in jail (and in Texas, municipalities recieve some form of State funding for each jailed individual) as well as various court costs. You’ve also got the attorneys that make a pretty penny off the situation. With all this in mind, it’s obvious that MADD has a nice group of allies for a reduction in BAC limits and it makes it the easiest route they can take.

From every chart I’ve (albeit quickly) googled up though, I’ve seen little decrease in the number of DUI fatalaties on a national level as a result of reducing BAC limits. There’s a decrease during the 1980’s and early 1990s but it seems to have basically red-lined since around 1994.

I really don’t know what the solution is, I’m not sure that anyone does. But I do believe that MADD has moved to adopt a prohibition type stance of late, and that’s what bothers me. Perhaps there is no solution, and no matter what is done (short of punishing DUI with the death penalty) this is the rate of alcohol fatalities we’re stuck with.

To close out, I’ll mention that I’ve been on both sides. I got a DUI when I was 20, but have also been hit by a drunk driver (as a pedestrian) and roughed up pretty good. Irony is that while I did pay the fines and whatnot, the guy that hit me 2 years ago is still at large because the local DA (the police were great about it though)wouldn’t press charges against something involving fraternity people at 3am.

I’ve heard – and maybe it isn’t true – that there are as many, or more, traffic accidents caused by sleep deprived people as by drunk people… yet there is no visible war against sleepy driving, no MASD, no increasingly severe penalties for people who drive tired. A coworker of mine killed somebody after falling asleep at the wheel, and did no prison time or anything like that – no doubt he was considered an unlucky victim of an accident, rather than an irresponsible monster. It’s interesting.

I would think that, generally, there should just be more holistic attention to smart driving – which means, of course, sober, alert, undistracted, safe driving. There’s no reason to single out one cause of bad driving. It gives all those sober, but distracted, sleepy, sloppy drivers a false sense of being OK to drive.

Not that my coworker should have been imprisoned, or called an irresponsible monster, of course – he was young at the time, and I’m pretty sure he’s deeply sorry for what happened.