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It’s a public health crisis that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives over the years and has prompted nationwide efforts to keep the public safe.
No, we’re not talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re talking about drunk driving, a persistent plague on U.S. roads that threatens the lives of innocent motorists and inflicts untold devastation on families and communities.
Everyone has a part to play in preventing drunk driving. One step concerned citizens can take is to donate to, volunteer with, and amplify the messages of anti-drunk driving organizations. Here is a review of some of the most prominent organizations committed to fighting against drunk driving and keeping American roads safe for all, and a description of how a skilled drunk driving injury attorney can help victims secure the compensation they deserve.
Perhaps the most well-known anti-drunk driving organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980 by Candace Lightner, the mother of 13-year-old Cari Lightner, who was struck and killed by a repeat-offender drunk driver. Candace Lightner soon joined forces with Cindi Lamb, the mother of a 2-year-old who became a quadriplegic in a drunk driving accident, and other mothers, in a nationwide crusade to end drunk driving.
Since its founding, MADD has played a leading role in advocating for strong anti-drunk driving laws nationwide, and in raising awareness about the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol and other intoxicating substances.
Today, MADD-developed programs teach students about drinking and driving, MADD-sponsored ad campaigns educate the public, and MADD members continue to push for solutions like enhanced law enforcement, ignition interlock laws, and implementation of new technologies to keep drunk drivers off the road.
Second only to MADD in public recognition, Responsibility.org is the organization behind numerous anti-drunk driving ad campaigns encouraging consumers to drink responsibly and not to get behind the wheel after a night out. The group’s “responsibility”-oriented message when it comes to alcohol consumption is no accident; its financial backers consist of nine major American distilling companies.
In addition to its public awareness campaigns, Responsibility.org also advocates for legislative and policy initiatives aimed at curbing drunk and impaired driving. While some may accuse the organization of having mixed motives, given its backers’ interest in diverting blame for drunk driving away from alcohol manufacturers and suppliers, its efforts undoubtedly add momentum in favor of laws enforcing strict penalties and extensive preventive measures against drunk drivers.
Candace Lightner departed Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which she founded, in the mid-1980s, but continued her advocacy against drunk driving through speaking engagements, writing, and other efforts. In 2014, Lightner founded We Save Lives (WSL), an international organization aimed at combating the “3Ds” of unsafe driving: drinking, drugs, and distraction.
WSL’s efforts mirror in many respects those of its peer organizations, which include pushing for enhanced legislation and policy solutions, and educating the public. One of WSL’s signature projects is called “Courage to Intervene,” which focuses on empowering individuals to intervene when someone might otherwise make the tragic decision to drive drunk, drugged, or distracted.
Formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving, today the re-named Students Against Dangerous Decisions (SADD) is the largest student-led organization in the country advocating against drunk driving and other dangerous behaviors among young people. Most Americans who attended middle or high school in the past 40 years are already familiar with SADD, which has chapters in school districts throughout the country.
SADD focuses many of its initiatives on grass-roots level education directed at teens about the hazards of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. Its goal is to empower young people to foster change through leadership and smart decision-making.
Representing more than 5,000 member organizations throughout the country, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) works to prevent substance misuse through collaborative community efforts. One of CADCA’s signature policy initiatives involves preventing impaired driving, including drunk driving.
CADCA has published a Prevent Impaired Driving Toolkit, designed to help stakeholders—including community organizations, local law enforcement, and public leaders—develop effective plans to combat drunk and impaired driving in their communities. The toolkit guides leaders through a data-driven approach to defining, evaluating, and tackling drunk driving on a local level.
CADCA also offers training to assist those stakeholders in implementing the strategies in the toolkit.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal agency tasked with ensuring the safety of roads throughout the United States. In furtherance of that mission, NHTSA works to educate the public about the dangers of drunk driving and impaired driving through research and outreach.
It has three active initiatives aimed at combating drunk driving: “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving,” and “Ride Sober or Get Pulled Over”. NHTSA also issues extensive guidance about highway safety-related topics that help to inform the decisions of local, state, and federal policymakers.
The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) serves a similar function as NHTSA, except that its mission is focused on ensuring the safety of California roads. OTS’s primary function is to award grants to state and local agencies to undertake traffic safety-related initiatives, including anti-drunk driving campaigns. Some of the other organizations listed here are OTS grant recipients.
In furtherance of that mission, OTS has also developed GoSafely California, a public education resource on the importance of driving safety and of combating drunk driving throughout the state, which features shareable videos, educational materials, and social media posts.
Founded in the mid-1980s, around the same time that MADD and SADD rose to prominence, Rockers Against Drunk Driving (RADD) is an anti-drunk driving organization that harnesses the resources of the music industry, including performers and venues, to combat drunk driving among young adults.
RADD’s initiatives primarily focus on outreach and advocacy on California college campuses and military bases, and at bars and restaurants in their surrounding communities. RADD also participates in large music festivals like Coachella as a means of spreading its message.
Based at the University of California, San Diego, the Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety (TREDS) program pursues numerous driving safety initiatives in the Southern California region. One such initiative, called the Teen Alcohol Awareness Program (TAAP) involves a partnership with the San Diego Police Department aimed at educating teens about alcohol use, and in deterring teens from driving while drunk or impaired by intoxicating substances.
The TAAP program takes teen drivers to an active San Diego Police Department DUI checkpoint to see firsthand how drunk driving enforcement works and the dangers of drunk drivers.
Another program, called Steer Clear, is an educational presentation delivered at schools and other youth-oriented organizations that encourages sober driving among young drivers ages 15 to 20. TREDS also publishes a program to help parents have conversations with teens about alcohol use and driving.
Reduce Teen Crashes California is a driver safety certification program developed as a partnership between SADD and the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). The program enlists California in the effort to educate teens about driving safety, and in particular about drunk and impaired driving.
The program provides data and educational materials for schools to use, including tools for teen crash reduction activities, and it rewards and recognizes schools for participating in the initiative.
The tireless work and advocacy by the organizations above, and by the tens of thousands of caring citizens who have gotten involved as volunteers in the effort to stem the tide of drunk driving, have undoubtedly made a difference.
According to the NHTSA (linked above), drunk driving deaths in the United States recently reached their lowest levels since the early 1980s—not coincidentally, the same time that saw the growth of the anti-drunk driving movement and the implementation of ever-more-strict drunk driving laws nationwide.
Still, despite those valiant and necessary efforts, drunk driving crashes continue to plague U.S. roads, taking the lives of more than 10,000 victims in a recent year according to NHTSA data. And, even while the rate of drunk driving crashes has continued to decline, the sheer number of them always threatens to rise, as more and more Americans than ever take to the roads.
The toll of those accidents is massive, not just in terms of lives lost, but also in terms of victims who suffer severe and catastrophic physical and emotional injuries, and in terms of the financial cost drunk drivers exact on individuals, families, and communities. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that cost exceeds $44 billion annually.)
Victims of drunk driving accidents should never have suffered harm, and should not have to bear the burdens of their injuries and losses on their own. They deserve to receive financial compensation to help them get the care they need and to rebuild their lives. An experienced drunk driving accident injury lawyer can help them get such compensation.
Lawyers for drunk driving crash victims take legal action on their clients’ behalf, seeking to hold drunk drivers and others answerable for the drivers’ conduct accountable for the harm they caused.
Every case differs, but oftentimes the efforts of a drunk driving accident lawyer can get a victim payment for:
In some cases, lawyers can also secure additional payments for victims through an award of punitive damages, which aim to punish extreme or intentional conduct by the party at fault for the drunk driving crash and the victims’ injuries.
Who might owe damages to drunk driving crash victims? In most crashes, the drunk driver will face legal and financial liability. But other parties may share that liability. For instance, in some jurisdictions, the bar, restaurant, or social host who served alcohol to a drunk driver before the crash may face legal liability for the driver’s misconduct. Likewise, a drunk driver’s employer may owe damages to a crash victim if the driver drove drunk while on the job.
Skilled attorneys for drunk driving crash victims investigate the details of a drunk driving accident to identify all potential sources of payment for their clients’ injuries and losses and work to ensure their clients receive the maximum compensation allowable under the law. Lawyers cannot guarantee results in drunk driving accident cases, of course, but by finding a lawyer who has years of experience representing drunk driving accident victims, you can increase your odds of a favorable result.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a crash caused by a drunk driver, you may recover substantial amounts of financial compensation. However, you may need to act quickly to protect those rights through legal action. You may have only a limited window of time to act to obtain the maximum compensation possible in your case.
To learn more about your legal rights and options for obtaining compensation after a drunk driver harms you or a loved one, an experienced drunk driving accident injury attorney can help you understand your options.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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