68.8 F
Friday, June 9, 2023
HomeNewsStop drunk driving with a red ribbon?

Stop drunk driving with a red ribbon?

co-red-ribbon.JPGMothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980 with the mission “…to stop drunk driving and support the victims of this violent crime. ” That’s a big, if not impossible goal, “to stop drunk driving”.

One way MADD is trying to stop drunk driving this holiday season is through their “Tie One on for Safety” campaign. According the the Leaf Chronicle (12.10.07), the Tennessee office of MADD is distributing over 10,000 red ribbons state-wide to raise drunk driving awareness. According to the article, the red ribbon campaign has three stated goals

  1. high visibility of officers, meaning many officers on patrol,
  2. sobriety checkpoints
  3. and more ignition interlock vehicles, which requires a driver to breathe into a register to prove they are sober before the vehicle can start.”

Goals one and two appear redundant, but that is beside the point. The article does not explain how the display of red ribbons assists in accomplishing the campaigns stated goals.

MADD is a very effective lobbyist group and has helped many states to pass very effective laws to deter drunk driving, especially with repeat offenders. However I am lost on how distributing 10,000 pieces of ribbon for people to put on their cars as “a pledge to drive safe” is a worthwhile effort to reduce drunk driving.

I could only think of one way a ribbon tied to to a MADD supporters car would stop someone from drunk driving –a drunk or soon to be drunk person sees the ribbon on the car, the person knows what the ribbon stands for, and decide not to drive drunk. First, the car and ribbon must be located in a place where drunks or soon to be drunks can see it. Secondly, they must remember (in a drunken state) that the ribbon is reminding them to not drink and drive. And thirdly, the drunk driver must not drive because of the red ribbon. This does not sound like an effective way to deter drunk driving.

These 10,000 ribbon, the transportation for MADD representatives to travel the state for photo ops, the costs of the travel including hotel rooms, meals, gas, etc. is paid for through public donations. MADD’s website it states that “Your donation is used to help fund programs that save lives and prevent injuries every day across our country.” Any reasonable person would have to admit that this red ribbon program has a slim chance to “save lives and prevent injury”.

The red ribbon campaign does raise awareness of drunk driving by getting media attention; the Chronicle’s article seems to be a fluff piece to do just that. The campaign got front page ink; almost 80% of article’ space was devoted to headlines and photo ops. But the article did not give the reader any useful information that actual could reduce drunk driving incidents.

With very little effort, and not using the MADD website, I quickly found the following information.

The May 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) contains an article discussing a study of drunk driving crashes. I narrowed the information presented here to children, since they are “mothers” against drunk driving. This study found the following:

  • Of 5,555 child vehicle deaths that involved drunken drivers, 64% happened while the child’s OWN driver was intoxicated

  • Most children (under age 15) killed in wrecks involving a drunk driver were unrestrained in a car with someone old enough to be a parent or caregiver
  • Less than 20% of the children involved were properly buckled in

The first stat shows that more children are killed in drunk driving wrecks by THEIR driver than a drunk stranger. I think one can assume that children are mainly driven around by their parents or relatives. The latter two facts indicate that we could “save lives and prevent injury” by simply ensuring our children are properly restrained in a vehicle.

Benjamin Radford, author of the book Media Mythmakers – how journalists, activists and advertisers mislead us, “child advocates don’t like to hear (these statistics) because it holds a mirror up to the real perpetrators of the crime.” These facts point to drunk driving parents/relatives that do not properly secure in cars as the main killer of children in drunk driving related car wrecks. Not the partying frat boy, not the underage drinking high school student, and not the scary alcoholic at the end the bar, but someone that knows and loves the child that gets killed. What is the old saying, not to point a finger cause there are three fingers pointing back at you. The distribution of this information and public action on this information could potentially cut the number of children fatalities in drunk driving accidents in half.

I could not find any statistics regarding the success of ribbon campaigns in achieving their stated goals. But I did find numerous ‘red ribbon fund raising events’. One could infer that the red ribbon campaign is just a reason to raise money not awareness. Organizations like MADD must raise money to effectively address their organization’s mission, but fund raising is not a noted objective of the is red ribbon campaign. It is easier and more effective to ask for your participation, which may lead to your donation, than to just outright ask for a donation. It seems to be economics driving the red ribbon campaign, not actively engaging public participation in solving the drinking and driving problem

Again, I am not anti-MADD; they have done a lot to help keep drunk drivers off the streets. I am against this idea that people can change the world through empty actions. The people that tie these ribbons on their cars and think they are helping, when they are doing nothing. Action is non-action as Orwell might say. Our efforts should not be to just raise awareness or raise money, but provide the public the tools and knowledge to eliminate the cause, drunk driving.

Blayne Clements
Blayne Clements
I am a 30 something graduate from Austin Peay State University, where I graduated in 1997 with two majors (Accounting and Finance). I am a very happily married man, with one beautiful daughter. I enjoy a professional life of public service and a personal life of travel, reading, music, and always trying to learn from others.


  1. Following this line of thought, the same question of effectiveness and “changing the world through empty actions” could be applied to pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness, ribbons and bracelets for AIDS awareness, and even the bright yellow Support Our Troops magnetic ribbons attached to millions of cars. Why not simply give cash to the Cancer Society, a local Hospice or donate to the Fisher House on base?

    Many Americans need these token affirmations of good intent to support a belief that they can help control a bad situation. It’s a “feel good” issue. Without public awareness, many organizations including MADD would flounder; the red ribbons, the yellow ribbons and the pink bracelets are representative of a burgeoning awareness that there is an issue. The real key is what percentage of the organization’s funds are used for administration (which includes fundraising). Anything more than 20% is not good. I like to see 80% of the budget of such organizations go directly to the cause, not the people running it. MADD, like many other groups spawned in the grassroots sector, relies on thousands of volunteers. When it gets top heavy administratively, the organization is no longer fiscally effective.

    On behalf of MADD, and as an avid supporter of the “don’t drink and drive” concept, I have written many stories about the aftermath of drunk driving: I shadowed the mother of a young girl, an equestrienne. Every Saturday for over seven years this devastated mom would walk down the hill to get a ride into the city to a coma unit where her daughter lay. She would brush her hair, talk to her read to her, and never know what tiny shard might pierce her consciousness. Though it took more than seven years, this girl was killed by a drunk driver.

    I wrote another story about a young man, 16, who was studying carpentry in vocational school. Hit by a drunk a drunk driver, he lay in his family’s living room in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down — forever.

    There were a lot of stories, for drunk driving (or driving under any form of intoxication)is a common and epidemic problem. Red Ribbons are an awareness issue, not a cure. In the business of modern life we forget to be aware; we are asleep at the wheel. Without the red ribbons, we wouldn’t even be talking about MADD.

    The issue is not the red ribbons and the awareness campaign but whether this program or any other of its ilk use the lion’s share of its funding for educational programs, for family services, research or whatever it is that is needed to resolve, or at best, work toward a resolution, of the issue.

  2. Thank you, Christine, for making such good points in your comment. I was surprised reading this story that the writer would be so ignorant as to the reason MADD uses red ribbons which they have been doing for years and years at the holiday season. I actually have one on my car year round. I don’t consider it an empty action. However, I do consider the action of the drunk driver that killed my son, my only child, last Christmas to be a selfish and criminal action.

    I’m also not sure what the journalist’s point was in this statement:

    “The May 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) contains an article discussing a study of drunk driving crashes. I narrowed the information presented here to children, since they are “mothers” against drunk driving.”

    He then went on to list some statistics stating the percentage of children killed when their own driver was drunk and the child/children unrestrained in the car. He went on to quote some author who states that child advocates do not like to hear that information because it holds a mirror up to the real perpetrators of the crime. Why would the journalist of this article even quote such a moron? Not that this whole article has any validity. None of that made any sense whatsoever. It doesn’t matter who the drunk driver is. A drunk driver is a drunk driver. It makes me sick that a parent would drive drunk with their child in the car. They have no regard for their own child or anyone else’s. That doesn’t let the rest of the drunk drivers off of the hook. They are making their car a deadly weapon just the same. The statement this journalists makes, “since they are ‘mothers’ against drunk driving”, and then listing those statistics is ridiculous. I believe that people who care about drunk driving, driving while intoxicated, whether it be alcohol or another substance or both, are fighting against it no matter who the driver is. Even when the driver is a politician. A doctor. A lawyer. A journalist. It doesn’t matter who. By the way, he may be surprised by how many fathers are also a part of MOTHERS Against Drunk Driving.

    To state at the end of the article that he is not against MADD because they have done a lot to keep drunk drivers off of the street seems to contradict the rest of his article. I may be being too harsh here, I am not familiar with this publication, this may be a high school student that has a lot to learn and I hope he takes the opportunity to learn.

    Christine, I thank you for the articles that you have written that bring awareness to the horrible and 100% preventable crime. A crime that is so often looked at in our society as a mistake. My son, Matt, was killed four months before he graduated college — he graduated posthumously. He was to be a marine biologist. He was on his was to a scuba diving trip with friends after just coming home for Christmas break, finishing up an especially tough semester. He was in a coma on life support for one week. He had a fatal brain injury. There is no loss worse in this world than the loss of your child. There is nothing more excruciating than watching your child die.

    The fact is that there are people that have read this article that are going to be killed by a drunk driver or will lose a loved one to a drunk driver. That is just the very sad, tragic and preventable truth. I live a nightmare every single day. But I will proudly display my red ribbon and let people know that I am a supporter of MADD and do not tolerate drinking and driving. I am doing more than that, but I don’t look at red ribbons as empty symbols anymore than I would a ribbon that any cause puts out there.

    This type of ignorance needs to be changed. Until it is we will continue to have the people out there with the mentality that drunk driving is a mistake. It affects all of us. No matter your nationality, your income, your age — a drunk driver shows no preference to who they kill or injure. They don’t care.

    Keep this in mind also. When driver is convicted for DUI, on average that person has driven intoxicated anywhere between 70 to 200 times previously. They just finally got caught. And they will do it again. Because they can.

    Connie Beard
    Matt’s Mom
    My Son, My World, My Hero

  3. Blayne was not defending drunk driving or drunk drivers. He was expressing the perfectly valid opinion that the money and effort being spent by MADD on the ribbon campaign, should instead be directed towards more effective means of actually preventing people from driving while drunk.

  4. I never said that Blayne was defending drunk driving or drunk drivers. He certainly has a right to his opinion however I do argue that it is a valid opinion for every reason I stated above and every reason that Christine also stated. There is no reason to again restate those reasons. There are more than clear. If Blayne is passionate about the crime of drinking and driving then there is much that can be done to be proactive about it. The ribbons brings awareness to this horrible crime that kills. Awareness. Believe me, MADD does a lot more than ribbons. I found out first hand. Hopefully, you won’t have to. But, when you need them they are there. And they are there also fighting legislature for tougher laws. And a fight it is.

    Connie Beard
    Matt’s Mom
    My Son, My World, My Hero

Latest Articles