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Candy Lightner

Born: 30 May 1946

Nationality: American

Candy Lightner transformed a personal tragedy into a crusade against drink driving. She founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD, a grassroots organisation dedicated to curbing alcohol-related traffic deaths.

Lightner's 13-year-old daughter Cari, whilst walking down a quiet street, was struck from behind by a car. The impact threw Cari 125 feet, knocking off her shoes and mutilating her body so badly that it was not possible to save her organs for donation. The driver of the car, Clarence William Busch, did not stop. At the time of the crash, Busch had four previous drunk driving convictions, for which he had served at most 48 hours in jail. He had been arrested for another hit-and-run accident just two days before hitting Cari.

Cari's death was the most tragic event in Lightner's life, but not the first time a drunk driver had injured her children. Earlier, when Cari and her identical twin sister, Serena, were 18 months old, Candy Lightner's station wagon was rear-ended by a drunk driver. In that wreck, Serena was bruised and covered with glass cuts. Six years later, Lightner's son, Travis, then four, had been run over while playing in front of the family's house. Travis was temporarily paralysed and suffered a collapsed lung, broken ribs, a broken leg, and a fractured skull. He spent several days slipping in and out of a coma and require multiple surgeries to repair the damage to his body. His head injury caused permanent brain damage. The driver, who was unlicensed, was driving under the influence of tranquilisers at the time she hit Travis, but did not even receive a ticket.

Lightner was overwhelmed with anger when, she learned that the driver who had caused her daughter's death would likely serve little or no time in jail. After learning the details of the accident from a highway patrolman, Lightner sat in a restaurant bar with friends and took action. She decided to found an organisation against drink driving.

One day, she was a divorced mother of three selling real estate in California, not even registered to vote. Within months, Lightner was lobbying and spreading her message across the whole of the US. Today MADD is growing as a national force. Instead of trying to eliminate drinking entirely, the group focuses its attention on curbing drink driving.

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