Candace Lightner hasn’t compiled the data herself, but officials who study highway safety tell her more than a half-million lives – 600,000 in fact – have been preserved since the effort she spearheaded to curtail drunk driving. It’s the kind of accomplishment for which the Smithsonian Institute requests your memorabilia but more importantly it makes a life that lasted only 13 years a triumph over tragedy.
Cari Lightner, one of Candace’s twin 13-year-old daughters, was walking to a church carnival on a bike path adjacent to the roadway near her home in Fair Oaks, California, in May 1980 when struck by a drunk driver who sped from the scene. So violently impacted was Cari’s body, thrown 125 feet, that her organs were not suitable for donation.
The driver, apprehended four days later, was a repeat offender out on bail from a hit-and-run DUI two days before killing Cari – his fifth offense in four years (but, amazingly, not even his last). When a police investigator confided to Ms. Lightner that the man would likely receive little or no incarceration, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (later changed to Driving) ignited.