In Memory of Carime

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In Memory of Carime

As much as I would like to skip this date, I cannot. It comes every year and through the years the grief does not just start and end on this date, it often starts sooner and never ends. 

Years ago. I started writing about how Cari lived vs how she died but this time I would like to talk about what her death created. 

Cari was killed on May 3rd and on May 7th I started what was the most impactful, passionate grass roots organization of its kind filled with volunteers who finally had someplace to go after their loved ones were killed by an impaired driver. At that time 25,000 people were killed in alcohol related crashes annually. 

After my first press conference within months of her death, I started receiving calls from around the country. The first woman wanted me to know that her son was killed by a drunk driver. Her husband was a cinematographer for Highway to Heaven. She wanted to know if she could start a chapter. Although I had been advised that chapters would be good, I had not thought that far ahead. However, it took me two seconds to say yes. Her son’s killer was sentenced to incarceration. As far as we could tell, that was a first and she always said it was because of our involvement. 

The second mother to call was from Los Angeles and her son and his friend both were killed by a drunk driver. Her husband was the producer of One Day at a Time and she too wanted to start a chapter. Again, I said yes. I personally became involved in her case, making numerous trips to LA to meet with the district attorney. I did this for many of our victims and survivors through the years. 

The next call was from a mother in Pennsylvania whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver. I waived my magic wand over the phone, and she too became a chapter. She made the best homemade fried chicken I have ever eaten. 

That was just the beginning. Before long, we had more than 400 chapters in every state and the volunteers kept rolling in. They were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends and before long those who had never been affected by drunk driving. We did not ask them to fundraise, we asked them to change laws and attitudes, get Governor’s task forces, and ask people to sign a petition urging the president of the United States to form a commission to solve the impaired driving problem in this country. He did.

We educated them about how to:

  • Convince their states to allow victims and survivors of drunk driving to become eligible for state compensation funds. 
  • Ask the judges to allow the victims a voice in the courtroom and present victim impact statements. 
  • Start SADD chapters. My daughter, Serena, and Cari’s twin sister founded SADD, Students Against Drunk Drivers. The name changed later. 
  • Monitor the courts raising hell when sentences were light or non-existent which in those days was a given.
  • Implement programs such as Project Graduation, Safe Rides and the designated driver campaign. 
  • Speak in schools and community groups. 
  • Pass laws. They helped pass more than 729 laws around the country. They raised the drinking age to 21, first starting within their state then helping me at the federal level. 

These mothers and fathers, though mostly mothers, did all that and more. They did this as volunteers and without the Internet. I did not get paid until after almost 2 years. And when I did, it was big news and not necessarily good news. It was tough being an activist and even tougher being a woman activist. 

I kicked a few pebbles, turned a few stones and within three short years the country was faced with an avalanche of protest from the long-forgotten victims of the country’s most often committed crime. These amazing grass roots organizers saved lives, more than 400,000 and each one is a hero in my eyes. 

All because Carime (Cari) Anne Lightner died on May 3rd.


Candace Lighter, Founder
We Save Lives
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Author, “Giving Sorrow Words: How to Cope with Grief and Get On with Your Life”

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