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Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), has dedicated her life to promoting road safety and preventing tragic accidents caused by impaired and distracted driving. With a personal experience that fueled her determination, she has become a leading advocate for change. Her efforts have not only saved countless lives but also inspired a wave of activism around the world.

Lightner’s journey began with a devastating loss–the death of her 13-year-old daughter, Carrie, at the hands of a drunk driver. Reflecting on that fateful event, she recalls that this tragedy ignited a fire within her to take action and hold accountable those who posed a threat on the roads.

In the aftermath of her daughter’s tragic death, she founded MADD, an organization that swiftly gained momentum and changed the course of road safety advocacy. Her resolve to prevent future tragedies became the driving force behind her efforts. Her passion for the cause was evident when she stated, “Stopping drunk drivers, initiating new laws, and stopping distracted drivers and drugged drivers is the right thing to do.” Her commitment to this mission has remained immovable throughout her journey. 

She is undoubtedly recognized as an instrumental figure in raising awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and advocating for stricter laws, including the push for a higher drinking age. MADD’s advocacy efforts were influential in promoting the passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which mandated that all states in the U.S. set their legal drinking age at 21 years old or risk losing a portion of federal highway funding. This act effectively raised the legal drinking age to 21 nationwide. 

While MADD served as her primary platform for many years, after leaving the organization, she has dedicated her time to founding another organization called “We Save Lives,” where she continues to pioneer change for increased road safety.

Candace Lightner’s organization, We Save Lives, has launched numerous impactful initiatives aimed at combating distracted driving. One of their notable campaigns involved petitioning Apple to implement drive mode on iPhones, which would automatically enable a “Do Not Disturb” mode while driving. By highlighting the importance of technology companies taking responsibility and implementing measures to reduce distracted driving incidents, this initiative serves as a wake-up call to the dangers that have unfortunately become accepted in today’s societal norms.

Another significant effort by We Save Lives is the #butnotwhiledriving campaign, which raises awareness about the risks of distracted driving. This campaign emphasizes that certain activities, such as texting or using social media, should never be done while operating a vehicle. By changing attitudes and behaviors surrounding distracted driving, We Save Lives aims to promote safe driving habits and prevent accidents.

Furthermore, We Save Lives organizes National Passenger Safety Week, empowering passengers to speak up and take action in dangerous situations. Recognizing the influence passengers hold, this initiative seeks to create a culture of road safety from within the vehicle itself. Through these advocacy and awareness campaigns, We Save Lives demonstrates its dedication to reducing accidents and saving lives by encouraging drivers to focus on the road and minimize distractions caused by smartphones.

Her impact extends beyond the lives directly saved through her efforts. She takes immense pride in inspiring others to start their own causes, saying, “I’m even more proud of the fact that so many people have started causes as a result of what I did.” Witnessing the growth of activism and the empowerment of individuals who strive to address social issues is a testament to her lasting influence.

Candace Lightner’s personal story and her tireless efforts have inspired a wave of activism worldwide. Due to her influence, many individuals and organizations have been motivated to join the fight against impaired and distracted driving. This ripple effect has undoubtedly led to additional lives being saved and countless accidents being prevented through increased awareness, education, and policy changes. While it may not be possible to provide an exact number of lives saved by Candace Lightner’s organizations, their impact is one that indisputably positioned her as a true American Hero.


This article feature is from our annual special edition issue, the L.A. STYLE Magazine Most Influential of 2023.

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