Lightner, Candy (Founded MADD)

Candy Lynne Lightner (born May 30, 1946), was the organizer and founding president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In 1980, Ms. Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunken hit-and-run driver as she walked down a suburban street in California. “I promised myself on the day of Cari’s death that I would fight to make this needless homicide count for something positive in the years ahead” Candy Lightner later wrote. In recent years, Lightner has broken with the organization, as it has become an advocate of neo-prohibitionism and the establishment of a so-called nanny state.

The leniency of the sentence given to the repeat offender of driving while intoxicated (DWI) outraged Ms. Lightner who then organized Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. The name was later changed to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The object of her organization was to raise public awareness of the serious nature of drunken driving and to promote tough legislation against the crime.

Candy Lightner appeared on major television shows, spoke before the US Congress, addressed professional and business groups, and worked tirelessly for years to change public attitudes, modify judicial behavior, and promote tough new legislation.

With the passage of time, MADD decided to eliminate all driving after drinking any amount of alcoholic beverage. Ms. Lightner disagreed with this focus and asserted that “police ought to be concentrating their resources on arresting drunk drivers”not those drivers who happen to have been drinking. I worry that the movement I helped create has lost direction.”

Ms. Lightner left MADD and disagrees with 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.”

Candy Lightner is a recipient of the Presidents Volunteer Action Award, an honorary doctorate in humanities and public service, and was the subject of a made-for-television movie, “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers: the Candy Lightner story.” She is the author of “Appalling to capitalize on innocents’ deaths,” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 1991, and co-author (with Nancy Hathaway) of Giving Sorrow Words. NY: Warner books, 1990 and “The other side of sorrow,” Ladies Home Journal, September 1991, 107(9), 150.


  • “Candy Lightner: A grieving mother helped America get MADD.” People Weekly, 1999 (March 15), 110
  • Frantzich, S. E. Citizen Democracy: Political Activists in a Cynical Age. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999
  • Friedrich, O. “Candy Lightner.” Time, 1985, 125, 41
  • “One woman can make a difference: Candy Lightner and Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD.” Vogue, 1986, 176, 170
  • “Original thinkers: These five helped reshape the way we see our world –and live and work in it.” Life, 1989, 12(12), 167-171
  • Sellinger, M. “Already the conscience of a nation, Candy Lightner prods Congress into action against drunk drivers.” People Weekly, 1984, 22, 102+

Source: Wikipedia contributors (2006). Candy Lightner . Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:33, May 17, 2006.


  • Lauren44

    Gretchen i really appritiate this paper because i am doing a history day research project on Ms. Lightner and i think this is tons of great information that i can use for it. Ted, this is horrible what happened to you and your collegue..but i do support police stops but in this case they should have at least given you a chance to explain. I can’t believe this is what the nation has come sad. Oh well i just wanted to make myself be heard and i really am thankful for all this information.

  • AbercrombieAutumn

    omg…ted i feel for you man…that is horrible what they did to your colleague…and you of course too, i cant believe you cant hold research books anymore without being a terrorist…note to gretchen, you wanting to get rid of miss bimbo could have the same affects, or hooters…haha…not really haaha thought seriouslyu.

  • As a point of clarification, I understand that Candy left MADD long before it started advocating for DUI checkpoints, and she has publicly stated her opposition to them.

  • A

    I see your point. As a drunk driving victim, I appreciate the roadside checks, however it is unfortunate that people are presumed guilty in situations such as yours. I wish had the solution to this problem. :)>-

  • Ted campbell

    As included in my post. Prior to 1980 the police could not legally pull over and or detain anyone without some act on our part creating probable cause. Activist organizations have removed that protection. There is now a requirement to prove our innocence instead of the legal presumption of innocence that existed before.

    Many would argue it is a good thing… having nothing to hide what is the harm? If it helps catch criminals, but the reality is the flood gates are opening and the justified context is forever being expanded. From the original check for alcohol spot checks are now roving justifications to search for a wide range of considerations not the least being ‘suspected’ terrorist or anti-social activities.

    I recently spent 28 hours in detainment because I am doing research on a paper and had numerous books and articles on terrorism in my car. I encountered a spot check and pulled over without any concern as I am a complete and utter abstainer. I do not consume alcohol or use any type of drug, prescription of otherwise. The officers went through everything in my car and discovered the literature. Next thing you know I and my passenger were public enemies. Being white, my ordeal was only one of unlawful detainment (for 28 hours) on suspicion I may pose a threat. My Islamic colleague was beaten and verbally abused as well as being detained.

    We are both model citizens who would never have suffered this if not for the opportunity to over-react afforded the officers because they were granted the right to create prove you have nothing to hide spot checks.

    I am not blaming MADD. I am pointing out the changes in law that eliminate our Rights and Freedoms that have come to pass as a result of activism by MADD and others.

  • A

    Ted – I fail to see how MADD interferes with any of my rights. Do you have a specific example in mind?

  • Ted campbell

    This may seem to be a success story, however, we must consider effectiveness and repercussions. Candy Lightner suffered a horrendous loss and understandably felt driven to do something. We hear this mantra all the time now from survivors with regard to taking actions with the intent to spare other’s the kind of loss they themselves have endured. Well intentioned but misguided!

    Candy Lightner had very good intentions, but what resulted from her efforts?

    In 27 years the issue of alcohol related driving deaths is alive and well. Despite all the organizations dedicated to changing the social attitude and legal ramifications drunk driving is still epidemic.

    Did Candy Lightner accomplish anything of value? Well, she certainly reduced the number of people left to suffer as she did, but in the States 40%+ driving related fatalities involve alcohol.

    That is down almost 20% over 27 years.

    But did this campaign have an even greater impact on an important aspect of our lives/society?

    In fact it did.

    In an effort to reduce the identified issue a true respect and consideration for the implications of activism with single minded focus on the goal was lost. As a result, a fundamental principle of Rights and Freedoms was removed/suspended. Behind Law was the presumption of innocence. People were innocent until proven guilty and this was a significant hindrance to preemptive action. The rights of the police to stop citizens, prior to this activism, required probable cause. Not so anymore, thanks to Candy Lightner et al. No, the presumption of innocence was an obstacle to intervention to catch the drunk driver before someone got hurt; so it was reasonable in context. The end justifying the means. However, as individuals, we have been stripped of the substance afforded us by the presumption of innocence. Our rights and freedoms are being eroded because well intentioned activism creates the environment where it is demanded.

    Candy Lightner can wear two badges of honor. One for her efforts to save lives and one for empowering agencies to override our Rights and Freedoms far more easily than ever before.

    Grief is inevitable. Finding healthy ways to deal with it is far more valuable than to dedicate yourself to ‘making sure no one ever has to go through what I’m going through’ – passion can accomplish many things… blind passion with no regard for the implications can result in many bad things.



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