A Successful “Turn the Curve” Strategy

How MADD Did it

This may seem like an odd example to include in a paper which appears to be about government decision making. But Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) provides on of the best examples of people who set out to change a condition of well being through a deliberate community wide strategy of trying and testing things that work. And they have succeeded. We often look to the business sector for examples of how to make government work, and there is plenty to learn there. But MADD can teach us something different. They teach us not to wait for a federal grant, not to wait for the research community to tell us the answer, not to measure our success by how many projects we have implemented or how much money we raised, but by whether we made a difference, whether the trend line has slowed its growth, flattened and begun to turn down. In this calculus of budgeting, numbers mean lives. MADD reminds us that we can change the rules of the game and win.

MADD was founded in California in 1980, and has grown to include hundreds of chapters in the United States and other countries. The work of MADD focuses on finding effective solutions for drunk driving and underage drinking, and supporting victims of drunk driving crimes. Many of the actions which MADD has taken are familiar. These include direct action such as Operation Prom/Graduation, the Red Ribbon campaign, designated driver programs, court monitoring, and victim assistance programs; and support for federal, state and local legislative changes including age 21 drinking laws, license revocation and other penalties for repeat offenders, laws lowering the blood alcohol content limit for adults and setting “zero tolerance” for those under 21, and victims’ rights and compensation laws, among many other actions.

While MADD can’t and doesn’t claim full credit, the change in the curve is dramatic. After reaching a peak in 1980, the rate and number of alcohol traffic fatalities has steadily declined, from 25,165 in 1982 to 16,589 in 1994. What makes these statistics more important is the fact that there are approximately 60 alcohol related injuries for every fatality. The direct cost of alcohol related crashes is estimated at $44 billion in 1993. This estimate does not include pain, suffering and lost quality of life, which raise the alcohol-related crash figure to $134 billion in 1993.

Apart from the impact on peoples’ lives, the reduction in U.S. alcohol-related traffic deaths from 1982 to 1994 can be estimated to have saved $13.8 billion in direct annual costs.

Source: Publications and statistical summaries from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Irving, Texas. Their cooperation and support is gratefully acknowledged.

Excerpt from “A Strategy Map for Results Based Budgeting,” The Finance Project, September, 1996 (see Resources and References).

MarcA Successful “Turn the Curve” Strategy: How MADD Did it