Drunk Driving Wrong? We’ll Drink to That

Relative to Ryan Dunn’s maybe having died from driving drunk: Drunk driving is awful. No one should do it, ever. Virtually everyone gets that. If you ask 100,000 people whether drunk driving is good or bad, 100,000 of them will wonder why you’re asking them such a dumbass question.

“Bad,” they’ll say. “Drunk driving is bad. You’re the worst pollster ever.”

Which of course will make you feel rotten about your awful pollster job.

Which will make you want to go out after a hard day pollstering and have a drink.

Which won’t be any trouble at all for you to do, because drinking is just about the most celebrated thing in our country. [Italics mine. But duh.]

I’m sitting in a Starbucks. Out the window I can see five restaurants where I could go, right now, and have just about about any drink I want (coaster included!). Not a quarter mile away are four liquor stores. Within five or so blocks are eight drug or grocery stores, each sporting a liquor department that could keep any frat house partying for a year.

A quick side-of-the-coffee-cup calculation shows that, taken altogether, I am sitting within walking distance of 763,000 quadrillion gallons of booze, give or take a shot.

What’s the first thing your waiter asks you at a restaurant? That’s right: “Do you always wear your pajamas in public?” But what’s the second thing you’re asked pretty much the moment you sit down?

“Can I bring you anything to drink?” “Can I get you started with a cocktail?” “Here’s our drink menu.” “You’re gonna want some booze, right?” “You look like a hardcore alcoholic. Can I fill up the flask I know you have on you somewhere?”

Sure, they all have a different way of saying it. But it’s always just a given that you’ll have a drink or four with dinner. The waiter never goes, “Would you like a cocktail before dinner, even though if you have one drink you’re pretty much guaranteed to have another, and then another, until in about ninety minutes you’re out weaving around on the road like the mad dog freeway murderer you are?”

No, they never say that. Why? Because that’s a lot to memorize, that’s why. And also because sober people don’t tip half of what drunk people do.

Drunk People Tip. That is so on the break room bulletin board of every restaurant you’ve ever been in. Right beneath the “Employees Must Always Shake the Hand of a Customer After Visiting the Bathroom,” and “Loogies = Protein” signs.

No, but seriously: in one way or another, you’re encouraged to drink everywhere you go, except for the bank and … the blood bank. And even then if you’re a boozy vampire, or have tragically failed to understand the concept of a Bloody Mary. Imbibing alcoholic beverages is so much a part of our lives that, before stepping out at night, most of us, without even thinking about it, slip a spare liver into a purse or jacket pocket. And once we’ve kicked our way through the neighborhood dogs we’re on our way!

And all that drinking, partying, great music, good fun, delicious food, and excellent outdoor seating with the amiable and good-looking servers happens in places pretty much everyone drives to. Unless you live above a bar, or next door to a Rockin Lobster, or behind a couch in the break room of a Hooters like I once tried to, you will most likely get to your Place o’ Fun by driving there.

It’s so insane. As a society we’re constantly encouraging people to drink outside of their home — yet we’re utterly appalled at the idea of anyone driving drunk. But of course people drive drunk. Anyone caught driving drunk could probably successfully sue for entrapment whatever establishment they were just at.

“But, judge! It was happy hour! Buffalo wings were only $2.99! Well drinks were only $2.99! Mixed drinks were $3.99! Three ninety-nine, judge! At those prices, it’d have been a crime for me not to get six margaritas!”

“Not guilty!” the judge would say. “Now stumble outta my courtroom, you cheap boozer!”

That would be one loser of a judge, for sure. But he’d have a good point: People drink because they’re constantly being enticed to drink. And hoping that the vast majority of drunk people won’t drive themselves home after they’ve been drinking is like hoping the vast majority of boxers won’t get punched. They will. They can’t help it. Once they show up, that’s what happens to them.

Driving home the other night from this big, fancy, outdoor charity event thrown by the local Rotary Club (that’s right: I roll with the Rotarians, sort of), I got caught in a police DUI check point. I hadn’t been drinking, but it was well-nigh (??) impossible not to drink at this event: all kinds of wineries and distillers were offering samples of their product: free wine and booze of every sort was at every turn. The Rotarians (??) wanted people to get drunk, because drunk people are so much more satisfying auction bidders.

“Have a drink! Have another drink! Have you visited our tequila bar? Have you tried all the wines? Have you seen the vodka fountain? Oh, you must! Look at the pretty colored plastic glasses! Now bid on stuff! Isn’t this fun? Isn’t our live band awesome? Don’t you love smooth jazz? Me neither. No one does. But you might if you have another drink! Now bid on some more stuff! Now go home!”

There were about one thousand people at this event. And I know eight hundred of them drove home drunk.

And that was just one event, in one little city, on one Saturday night.

It’s so easy to say that Ryan Dunn, or anyone who drinks and drives, is personally responsible for whatever damage they do.

But every time a drunk driving accident occurs, aren’t we all at least a little to blame?

And isn’t that not in the slightest bit funny?

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Joe Hughes

    Good article and interesting point. There have only been a few places that haven’t asked if I wanted a cocktail or wine when I think about it.

  • http://www.beckygarrison.com Becky Garrison

    I just finished a book called “Gods Behaving Badly” that talks about how in the absence of religion, celebrities have become our gods. We seem to think it’s amusing that George Clooney took a flask with him to some awards show as though somehow this bad boy allows every man to live out his fantasy. We worship their heroic rise and fall of celebrity idols that’s often spurned on by alcohol or drugs. And unless they go all anti-Semitic on us like Mel Gibson, we’re liable to eventually forgive them. Then we tear up perhaps when a Jeff Conway passes away from the affects of drugs/alcohol.

    The advent of reality TV seems to only worsen this proclivity – if so many people didn’t delight in the drug/alcohol induced trainwrecks that isThe Jersey Shore, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and the Jackass crew to name a few, then this crap wouldn’t be on the air or in the news. No matter how enticing it may be to watch this crap, turn it off. If enough of us do it, then maybe the worst of it will go away.

    All of this serves to glamorize an addiction that in my case took away both my parents before I was 18. The real live stats on what these addictions cost on so many levels boggles the mind. But then if you bring up said stories, you’re called a party killer even though when I go out, I like to chill and have a drink. But the self-control is on me to stop after two or to choose public transportation. Ultimately, I am responsible for my own life regardless of how this alcohol is pushed upon me.

    • http://www.beckygarrison.com Becky Garrison

      Oh and I’ve been in enough situations where alcohol laden events held by “progressive” minded Christians that ended up turning into what’s happens at Vegas stays in Vegas type scenarios – replete with Christian leaders/author/speakers posting pics of themselves with nubile young things looking plastered. It’s like a faith fraternity party – moves that cease being funny once one is out of college. And we’re talking people in their 30s and older.

  • Liza

    My knee jerk reaction to your blog would be to say it is all personal responsibility but when thinking through I am inclined to agree with you. Moderation is not exactly a practice that America embraces. Whether it is drinking, politics or religion, we seem to be a nation of extremes. Would you also say that the way being drunk is portrayed in movies and TV feeds into it? Usually being drunk is portrayed as harmless and funny. The Hangover movies being a good example. Just thinking out loud here.

    • Angela

      That was a perfect addition, I think. The culture includes the depictions and glamorizing as much as the ease of access and advertising.

  • Suz

    So very very true. The only people who are completely immune to the temptation, are those who simply don’t drink. The other extreme.

  • http://twohotmamas.wordpress.com N

    Really interesting and thought-provoking post. (Though I will add to your part about the restaurant that it’s not JUST that drunk people tip more, or not even entirely, but that alcohol brings up the bill so much that people are then also tipping on a significantly higher bill.)

    I don’t drink much any more – maybe once or twice a month, and only a drink – MAAYYYYBE two – on those occasions, but this was fresh to mind, not only because of the accident, but because of a work dinner (and I do work for a religious institution!) last night, at which I had to think very carefully about what, how much, and when to drink, as I knew I had to drive home with my young daughter in the car.

    Which also then leads me to the parenting aspect, and how I hope that, when said young daughter is older, we have a good enough relationship that, instead of just going out and drinking and taking wild risks afterwards, I can tell her that, if she DOES end up drinking, that she damn well better call us to get a ride home.

  • Don Whitt

    I swing back and forth on the personal-responsibility vs. “succumbing to society’s bad signals” topic. Lately I’m a personal responsibility Nazi. “Awareness” programs don’t do much for people. There’s really no other way to manage these issues other than to force our family and friends to think critically about these issues..

    “The Media” telling you to be so skinny you make yourself puke? You’re the one puking, sister.

    GQ Magazine making dirty martinis look like they taste so good you have 4 after work? You’re the one that just pee’d an olive into the toilet, dude.

    The Jackass that drove “up to 140 mph” and took a friend out with him is a really bad example of how to live and act. I’m not comfortable giving my kids a wink and nod about this party-boy lifestyle by placing blame on anyone other that Jackass for what happened.

    I’d rather point to that Jackass’ bad example and say, “…that is where you’ll end up if you drink and drive or ride with someone who does. Don’t do it. Call a cab or call me – no questions asked. Dying that way is one of the dumbest and most preventable ways to leave earth and it will break my heart if you do.”

    Yes, our society romanticizes alcohol, and downplays the sadness and destruction of alcoholism. However, society doesn’t give a damn about us beyond what we’ll spend on it. It’s our livers and lives that suffer. It’s our responsibility not to be the Jackass.

  • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

    My mom used to say “If all your friends were jumping off a cliff would you do it, too?”

    I guess the answer is “If everyone else is doing it, then there must be a good reason.”

    There is an element of personal responsibility that we cannot ignore as a society, especially if we want to proactively battle a really stupid side effect of our really stupid society. At the same time, people do all sorts of senseless stuff not because they are senseless people, but because they live in a society that calls something “common sense” when there is not much common society does to promote it.

    You will likely get some hate mail about this post John, but I agree with most of everything you said.

  • sayla1228

    Don’t forget that the puritanical attitude toward alcohol plays a huge role in this as well as the anti-leisure attitude toward life. Just banning alcohol or forbidding drinking hardly works on people especially when self-medication, emotional stress and boredom are the primarily reasons for drinking to the point of hangovers. I’m social drinker but I never felt the need to over drink. I just drink for fun and relaxing.

  • Jeannie

    We are a nation of extremes and addictions. We desparately need a paradiagm shift in how we handle sustance abuse and all the problems associated with it.

  • denise

    See. I don’t agree with this argument. I think it’s the same one that says we are fat, as a society, because there is a McDonald’s on every corner. No one is FORCING you to drive through that drive-through. I have never driven drunk, or mostly drunk, or even tipsy. Why? Because, I make the decision before I order a drink that I won’t be able to make the decision NOT to drive after I drink. I also make sure that whomever I’m with ALSO does not drive drunk. If they are drinking…I’m not. Even, if I’m not supposed to be the designated driver. I think it’s about taking responsibility for our actions and, we, are constantly making excuses for them. Ryan Dunn had multiple speeding infractions and a previous DUI where his license was suspended for a year. He’s not a 19-year old kid who is just figuring out what his tolerance level is, nor was that, obviously, the first time he’d gotten in a car after too many drinks and suffered the repercussions of his actions. I would say that a majority of people believe that they AREN’T drunk when they certainly are and drinking with a bunch of other people is no exactly an accurate gauge of your level of soberness. I’ve gotten drunk with friends and all of us thought the other person was sober. However, not one of us got behind the wheel of a car and drove.

    If you know you are someone who can’t drink and make good decisions, either don’t go to places that serve alcohol or make arrangements BEFORE you go on how you are going to make it home. You drive to a bar in a car (can’t make this not rhyme, sorry) and there is a good chance that you are planning on both drinking and driving. One drink means that you shouldn’t drive. Take the decision about whether you are too drunk or sober enough OUT of the equation. Don’t drive or don’t drink. If you can’t imagine doing one without the other, then don’t go. I

    I have absolutely no sympathy for the people who drink and drive. It costs lives. I know innocent lives that were taken by this stupid and very selfish act. I say people need to start taking responsibility for their actions, and we need to start making people take responsibility for their actions.

    P.S. Prohibition certainly didn’t stop people from drinking heavily. I imagine that you take away all of the bars and liquor stores and the liquor licenses and people will still find a way to drink and drive.

    • Leslie

      I rarely drink and never drive after having done so. I eat fast food twice a year, exercise daily, and eat plenty of vegetables. However, I am always at risk of being killed by a drunk driver because alcohol is so omnipresent in this society, and my insurance costs are up because so many people eat poorly. I agree that, yes, I think we should punish people who drink and drive, but that is expensive and doesn’t work very well to keep people off the roads. I would like it if we as a society would make that alcohol less available and less enticing.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Denise: I’m not arguing that people shouldn’t be susceptible to suggestion. I’m simply stating the obvious, which is that they very much are.

      • denise

        I agree that people are, but I think part of this is because we really don’t have penalties that seem to require or encourage responsibility. The punishments for drunk driving aren’t that severe, considering the potential cost of driving drunk. You can try to eliminate the selling of alcohol (bars do that by not selling after 1:30 am and so do stores, I believe), but that certainly hasn’t limited the number of people who drink and drive. This is much less of a problem in some other countries where alcohol is just as available and, in some places, more so. I believe several years ago the penalties were increased and there were people saying how it wasn’t fair and the penalties for “just” driving drunk were too severe. It’s the attitude toward it that has to change, not the availability. I’ve read through many of the posts in response to Ryan Dunn’s death and way too many people said “well, he looked sober” or “he only had 6 drinks and that’s not a lot” or “we’ve all driven drunk at some time.” It’s the same issue with drinking on college campuses in the states. You don’t see that to be as big a problem in other countries, because the attitude towards alcohol is so much different.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Right. You make my point. As a culture, we have … booze issues. Well. Getting high GENERALLY issues.

          People WILL get high. That’s just a fact of the human experience.

          • Scott

            I would expand that statement, John, to “we have issues with pleasure, generally. Thanks, Puritans!”

  • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

    John, you’re freaking me out. I was looking forward to moving to the States this August – I’m currently living in Britain, where you can travel between your house and the bar using this aces invention called “public transport” – and now I’m worrying I’ll get run over by the ravening hordes of drunk drivers. :(

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Oh, you will. You’ll be dead 15 minutes after you arrive here. But what you’ll have for those 14.5 minutes!

  • Susan in NY

    In response to many responders who posted thus far – I don’t see where John suggests that the government step in to regulate alcohol use.

    I read John saying that we as people have a shared responsibility to take care of each other. And that might mean that someone on the Rotary board get serious about the danger of pushing alcohol to increase fundraising revenues.

    It might also mean that we as individuals be more proactive in trying to influence the drinking behavior of our friends and family – or that we cut down on our own drinking if we know we are driving.

    Perhaps it means not serving alcohol in our homes if we know that our guests have a tendency to overindulge then drive.

    It might mean that we do not keep alcohol in our homes if we think the children might be tempted to use it, or it might mean that we change our attitude about alcohol in front of our children. Children should see through example that their parents enjoy alcohol sparingly and only as a pleasant adult drink – as an accompaniment to a good meal, or a pleasant enjoyment when socializing with friends or family.

    Children who see that their parents use alcohol to “relax” after a stressful day, or parents who get drunk, or even worse, parents who drink and drive, are far more likely to abuse alcohol as adults. (There is data on this, but I’m no researcher).

    In my childhood, I remember my dad driving home from my cousins’ house in New Jersey, on I-95, over the Goethals bridge, then across Staten Island, then across the Verrazano Narrows bridge, on to the skinny, curvy Belt Parkway, passing Coney Island and looking at the tankers in the ocean. All the way, he would be smoking and following too closely and weaving a little. I remember times when his head bobbed to sleep and when he had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of him.

    I was petrified. My entire family would be asleep in the car, but I would sit behind him, wide eyed, watching him and the road, with the hope that through my vigilance I would see and accident and warn him before the crash. I would say nothing, but my fear and anxiety were massive. I would talk in my mind, hoping he would hear my thoughts to stay awake and keep his eyes on the road.

    He is an alcoholic, though he does not drink everyday. The problem is that once he has one drink, he does not stop drinking. Throughout my growing up years, from a very young age, his drinking exacerbated my already anxious personality. Thank God for good therapy, is all I can say.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Wow. What a great, full comment. Thanks, Susan.

    • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

      My dad was like this too, Susan. I remember when he got pulled over one time on the highway. The cop looked at me in the back seat (this was before seatbelts were mandatory, and before car seats for kids existed)… anyway, the cop looked at me in the back seat, and then gave my dad a warning. Probably because his license was clean, though I’ll never figure that one out.

      The smell of alcohol on my parents’ breath was a normal thing for me. Terror was a normal thing for me — I never knew what was going to happen next, and I was an only child, so if something happened, it was always my fault.

      I will say another thankful prayer that I am adopted. Yep, it was a fine case of the Catholic adoption agency saying “okay, you’re well off and you’re Catholic, here, have a 4 month old baby!” My prayer of thanks is that I have none of these crazy-ass genes.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    Booze is everywhere, and you are right, restaurants and bars and charity events and golf courses and…other people…they all push it.

    I work at a winery, and in my industry there are many events where drinking is the norm. One of the things I really appreciate about my company is their policy on drinking and driving. 365 days a year, whether you are at a work event or a private event, if you have a drink and need a ride home, the company asks you to take a cab and submit your receipt for reimbursement. They will ALWAYS reimburse you for the cab, no questions asked. They very explicitly do NOT want you to drink and drive, even a little bit, and they put their money where their mouth is.

    Now, of COURSE it would look bad for a winery to have an employee with a DUI. But it rarely happens, because they provide us with a very easy way to not get one.

    I love this post, though. Whoever lets another person leave a party and get in a car drunk? Sure, that person is responsible for himself, but you know what? His ability to reason is inhibited because of his alcohol consumption. Its like those TV shows where they set up bystanders with an episode of parental verbal abuse or domestic violence. So few people intervene, even when there is a damn good reason.

    Don’t just sit back. Don’t just say to yourself “She’s a big girl, she can make bad choices for herself.” You know what? She’s drunk. He’s drunk. He’s NOT making good choices and someone – YOU – need to take away the keys and call a cab. Because you might not be protecting only the drunk person, you are also protecting your fellow human beings out on the road who have no idea there’s a drunk driver barrelling their way.

    • Dee

      I was at a restaurant bar after work several years ago sampling Cosmopolitans. I had just returned from a trip to NY and had the lovely pink drink for the first time there and was looking for a repeat. I always drink beer, so this was a new thing for me. The bartenders seemed to know nothing of this drink, and were having fun finding new ways to make it. I found myself in the ladies room in my business suit falling face first on the floor in the stall. I decided I should probably go home at that point, went back to the bar, paid the tab and headed for my car. It was still daylight out! Fortunately a man ran me down in the parking lot and suggested I should not drive in my condition. I stopped, looked at him and said, ‘You are right….I’m drunk!” He had called a cab already and waited with me to be sure I got home safely. I have no idea who he was now, but I see him as an angel.

  • Don Gollahon

    I’m over 20,000 days sober. :-) Because I have never drank alcohol. Why? Not for religious reasons but because of practical observations. I saw what it did to my dad, my grandpa, and practically all of my uncles. At a very young age I decided I would not put my family through what they did theirs. And I have stuck to it. And if alcoholism is genetic, then my chances of having the gene are pretty high. So why mess with it. I don’t need it to make me think I am having a good time and enjoying life. I’ve tried to teach that to my kids as well. They are not of drinking age yet so I will have to wait and see how well they handle it.

  • Rebecca

    I live in Bavaria, Beer Country, but somehow, they don’t have quite the same problem as the States when it comes to drinking and driving. Part of it may be that, with the Autobahn, DUIers don’t *live* to be recidivists; a crash at over 100 mph is mighty unforgiving. And if you do live, there is Hell to pay in fines, fees, suspension/revocation and imprisonment. Germany’s approach seems to be, “Hey, I’m going to assume you’re a level-headed adult until you prove yourself otherwise. Then, I’m gonna hose you up, sucker.”

    The legal drinking age here is sixteen, and yeah, lots of teens here way overdo it, just like back home. But then they get over it and become reasonably responsible, lederhose-wearing adults. IMHO, a big part of this difference is the approach: drinking isn’t some glamorous, forbidden fruit. It’s as boring as going to the bathroom or paying your electric bill. The waitstaff don’t push it on you (or even bother you much, in general) like they do back home; they figure if you want it, you’ll holler.

    We live on a military installation where, unfortunately, our fellow Americans don’t fare so well. Late into their twenties and early thirties, these schmucks are getting full-on plastered every chance they get, often while their children watch and learn. Because of this, we’ve had to take a proactive approach with our own son, who is a preschooler and doesn’t miss much. He already dislikes drunks. Smart kid.

    We took our son to Munich this past September for Oktoberfest and all three of us teetotalled. Boy, did my son learn a lot about how *not* to be a dumbass that day! It was a 24 hour-long teachable moment, replete with examples of big folks being stupid and paying heavily for it. And he watched his parents make more responsible choices than the idiots around him, and don’t think that went unnoticed. We talked a lot about the consequences of getting drunk, including drunken driving, and he saw living illustrations all around him. Plus, we ate some really fine bratwurst, but that’s another story.

    I think the Puritanical approach of “hide it before the kids figure out it exists” is big fail. I don’t want my son’s first sight of alcohol-driven life to be when he goes away to college. I want him to see it, in its full puking ugliness, from the get-go, so it will seem so banal, so boring, so incredibly stupid to him that he can’t imagine why anyone would do that to themselves. And I want the three of us to be there, together, while he witnesses the foolishness of excess, so we can keep a running commentary on the consequences of drunkenness.

    My husband and I drink, but we don’t get drunk. And we NEVER drive, even if we’ve “only had one.” (That should be the required epitaph on drunks’ tombstones.) And yes, if you’re drunk around us, you will probably be pissed off at us as we show you to our son and explain how, and specifically, you’re a dumbass. But I’d rather you were pissed off at me than attend my son’s funeral, or visit him in prison, thanks. So, drink up. You’re making my point beautifully.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      This is so awesome.

  • denver

    I agree with the person who said they want their little kid to see how idiotic drunks are from the get-go. I’m 32, went to a party college (that I didn’t know was a party college ’till I got there), and have never drank alcohol in my life. Know why? My father’s an alcoholic. And a drug addict, which is why I’ve never done that, either. I saw from a young age what alcohol meant, and what it did not just to him but to all of us in the family that had to deal with him, and vowed never to do that to anyone else, or be that selfish, ever. So I don’t. I think if more kids saw “being drunk makes you a dumbass” it would lose some of its “forbidden fruit” appeal that it has in this country. Cigarettes are equally legal (and legal at a younger age) in this country, and their use is in serious decline. Why? Because culturally, it is becoming more and more “gross”. We need alcohol to be come more “gross” in our society. If instead of “fun! frat party! spring break! woo!” it was “passing out in a filthy bathroom! abusing your family! can’t stand up straight or speak coherently! gross!” …maybe we’d have less drinking.

    The only downside to being a teetotaler is that it makes me a social outcast. Coworkers going out for drinks after work? I don’t get invited. Things like that. It’s kind of sad that so much of our social interaction centers around alcohol.

    • Jeremy

      Agree 100%.

    • Liza

      Or you get invited but are expected (not asked) to be the designated driver.

    • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

      Social outcast, pheh!

      My guy and I disscussed this once, in relation to some of his co-workers and how they talked about going to bars after work (while my guy does not). We both sort of came to the conclusion of “We just don’t get that” because “We LIKE our brains!” It’s just, the idea of numbing your brain for fun never appealed to me. My idea of “fun” involves painting, or writing stories, or Bob and I watching animated films or maybe spending some quality time with the Nintendo. (And yes I am an adult. I’m going to be 32 next month).

      Of course, I have the added incentive of “I’ve seen this wreck members of my family.” My father got help and made a comitment to sobriety when I was a little kid and I learned from his strong character. From my older brother, however, I learned what the opposite does. What the opposite does is scary.

  • Don Rappe

    Do I feel a little bit to blame? No. Not unless I had poured the booze into the jackass against his will. And we know that didn’t happen. I already do everything I can to promote public transportation. Prohibition has been tried and it doesn’t work.

  • RayC

    I was a generalist when it came to substance abuse, alcohol being one of them, but definitely not my substance of choice. Looking back on those days I cringe to think of the many times I drove while under the influence. But, what makes me cringe even more is the fact that even though I’m not adding to the plethora of intoxicated drivers anymore there are many, many out there doing what I did. I remember sitting in rehab and seeing all the newly arrested DUIers come in and thinking to myself: where there’s one, there’s many—kind of like cockroaches.

    I do think a way to handle this problem is not to make alcohol illegal, but to limit advertising, get rid of “bottomless Bloody Mary” specials, make public transportation a more viable alternative, and expect a lot more responsibility from bar and restaurant owners. I realize that bars and restaurants make a lions share of their profits from alcohol and servers make a lot more money in tips by pushing drink, but still there needs to be a sense of civic duty from these places. Here in Baltimore, the city provides free cab rides to anyone within a 50 mile radius of a bar/restaurant on days when heavy drinking is expected, like Labor Day weekend. I also think the law needs to be relentless in catching these drivers. Who knows, maybe if I were ever caught I would have stopped sooner.

  • Jeremy

    Absolutely right, John. Alcohol is worshipped like a god in this country. More than any god, actually. Don’t believe me, go on any message board with any traffic at all and start a thread on beer, and you’ll instantly get 20 pages of replies. There’s a facebook page called “I f’n Love Alcohol”. It’s not just enjoyed, it worshipped.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but as long as this remains the case, drunk driving will always be a problem. It doesn’t matter how many TV commercials or organizations like MADD we put out there.

  • R Boyer

    We do push alcohol – and advertise it on television in a way that tobacco would neve be allowed.

    And alcohol marketing targets specific products to specific demographics. (Side note: alcohol abuse among LGBT folk is much higher than general populace. Possible reasons: societal disapproval leads them to drink to numb the emotional pain, and/or bars are often the only place for “the gays” to meet – even just to socialize).

  • Laura

    I have read some of the posts above, but not all. Now I find myself just wanting to add my 2 cents worth. Recently, an old school friend of mine, Timmy, died in a car accident. He was a passenger in a vehicle piloted by a drunk driver. I live a long way away, so when I heard, I searched the internet and found a news story about the accident. A lot of people had commented on the site, and had made the most horrible comments like “He deserves it if he was so stupid to ride with a drunk driver”, “Darwin rules”, etc. I was really shocked and horrified at the judgements made by people, and the lack of compassion. I started wondering if Timmy knew he was getting into a car with a drunk driver, and If the driver knew how intoxicated he was. I know that I have driven in the car of a drunk driver, more than once. One of my parents regularly drove drunk. I also made drunken, teenage/ young adult, decisions to drive with drunks. Alcohol reduces our judgement. I am a non-smoker now, but in the past, every time I have started smoking again was from the one ciggy I mooched while drinking with friends. I know I can’t have just one. Ever. Still, at the time I think, “Gee a smoke would be nice, just one!” When sober, I would NEVER think it is ok! When I was young, alcohol got me in lots of sexual trouble. I would never have done things sober that I did drunk. Now at age 39, I am really careful about alcohol vs. driving. Good for me, and good for the people around me….but I still don’t feel that comfortable throwing stones….if you know what I mean. Timmy was a good dad, good husband, good friend. He was a good human being who like many others before him, made a mistake, when his judgement was impaired. He didn’t take up smoking, he didn’t have unprotected sex, he died while riding with a drunk driver. How can we, as a society, help? Education? change our culture? Possibly, and hopefully. I do know the way is not to attack, vilify, judge, or damn to hell.

  • Don Rappe

    It seems reasonable and legal that a controlled product should only be advertised on the premises where it is sold. Or perhaps, not at all. There is a reason it must be controlled. I think this would cut way back on drunken children. Most of the alcoholics I know began drinking as children. I also believe that tobacco should only be sold from the same licensed facilities. They should also be able to sell other self destructive substances such as heroin, cocaine and meth, just as American drug stores did before the 1930′s. Then people from advanced nations could quit financing the overthrow of the legitimate governments of poor nations by their drug lords.This would do a world of good for our friends in Mexico, Colombia, etc.

  • Don Whitt

    There is nothing more expensive than trying to legislate morality and sobriety. Education is the answer.

    • RayC

      …and wholly ineffective, I might add.

      • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

        It is only ineffective because media goes against what is trying to be taught. Kids would rather listen to some cool person on TV instead of their teacher. Adults aren’t any different.

        • RayC

          No, it’s ineffective because people don’t want the laws telling what they can or cannot do with their bodies. It’s a lesson that has plenty of precedent and should have been learned by now.

          • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

            While I agree that people don’t want laws telling us what to do with our bodies, I don’t believe that making a law that says “don’t” compels many people to “do”.

            Sure, there is a rebellious subset, but I surely don’t think that they are the majority.

            Also I’m not sure how the topic of “education” became “laws”.

          • RayC

            I don’t believe that making a law that says “don’t” compels many people to “do”.

            It’s not necessarily that a restrictive law compels someone who ordinarily would not do something to do what the law restricts, but it does not on the whole keep those who want to do what the law restricts from doing it.

            The Prohibition is a clear precedent for this. There is no reason to believe that modern prohibition should act on the populace any differently. The fact that millions of people risk trouble with the law to take drugs or drink and drive is proof positive that prohibition (legislated morality) is an ABJECT failure and always will be. To think it could ever be successful is utopian and demonstrates a lack of knowledge of human nature.

            The only thing that can keep people from doing anything like drinking and driving or taking drugs is to have an tacit, fully integrated, informal society-wide consensus against such behavior, which would highly encourage those given to such behavior to think twice or change.

            Humans ultimately want to be accepted by other humans. If the whole room is not smoking and their expectations are accordingly of everyone, the one smoker in the room is probably going to by more hesitant to light up, unless of course you are the Sexy Beast! :)

          • Don Whitt

            Education is only “wholly ineffective” when ignorance is promoted as wisdom. Perhaps the worst crime one can perpetrate these days is to commit reason.

          • Don Whitt

            @RayC,

            And, yeah, that education thing is a big waste of time. It gets in the way of uninformed opinion. Like the world being flat, the earth being at the center of the universe – how can anyone argue with such obviousness? Screw education.

            Or, maybe you’re thinking of “awareness” programs that simply point to a problem and then offer nothing but expensive legislation in place of personal responsibility and critical thinking. Of course, that would shake the very foundations of most people’s belief systems. Let’s not do that!!

          • RayC

            Don, I wasn’t saying that Education was what was ineffective. I was referring to your prior statement:

            “There is nothing more expensive than trying to legislate morality and sobriety.”

            I’m of the harm reduction mindset which includes education as an integral way to reduce the harm that can come from using drugs and alcohol.

  • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    When Bob and I are out to dinner and are asked if we’d like a drink, we take it to mean “Coke, please!”

    (As in, Coca-Cola). Okay, so I occasionally get *one* froofy-la-la rum-fruit drink, but that is what I limit myself to and even then, it’s extremely seldom as such drinks tend to be expensive. That’s what you get when one person comes from a family of strict teetolers and the other worries about her family’s alcoholism and watches herself becuase she does not want to go down that road.

    If you’re raised with responsiblity and have some self-control, it’s not a problem. Maybe, at a party, you’ll be seen as the “nerd,” but really, being nerdy is not so bad.

    • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

      And hopefully soon the real truth about how unhealthy soda is will come out as well.

      • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

        Addendum: I’m not picking on you, and I’m sorry that it might sound that way!

        My point is, a lot of things that the media has pushed on us over the years as being harmless really are not.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

    Some of us may remember when cigarettes were heavily promoted by the media. I remember the tail end of it and witnessed the shift away from the glorification of the mighty tobacco gods.Celebrities smoked on about every television show or movie, Cigarette ads filled in commercial slots, Vending machines stood outside almost all eating establishments, glossy ads appeared in magazines. The Marlborough man was the ideal of smoking hot manliness.

    Today, fewer people are smoking, many who do are trying to quit, and municipalities all over the US are putting limitations on where one can light up in public. Sadly it has taken a few decades to long for public opinion to swing against the promotion of the harmful use of tobacco. (As all plants it has good uses of some kind, just not as an oxygen additive.) Too many discovered too late the harmful outcome of tobacco smoking.

    Hopefully we can begin to do the same thing with alcohol. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with it. There are a multitude of delicious alcohol related beverages one can enjoy. It is in the how it is used, not with a meal, not like we’d do with a glass of juice, or a cup of tea. That is currently the problem for many, the why we drink alcohol. That change in perception will be key to helping end the cycle of abuse with alcohol.

    At least that is how I see it.

  • http://www.thesamechild.blogspot.com Jon Gilbert

    Years and years and years ago I was a Military Policeman stationed at Fort Knox , KY. My first drunk driving traffic stop ever (I was the stop-ER, in other words, not the stop-EE — it was generally suggested we not drive our patrol units while we were drunk [you know how prudish the Army can be, after all]) was a woman coming back from the NCO club. She was the director of our post MADD branch. To add insult to irony, she asked me if I could just let her drive home so she could maintain her reputaion, as she promised this was he only time she had ever performed such an irresponisble act. She swore she would never do it again. Being a push over-y, 20-year-old gentleman, I did the only thing I could — I made her cry and I took her to the post lock-up.

    • Don Rappe

      Safe to say that for her alcohol was addictive.

    • denver

      Good for you. Hypocrites like that drive me nuts!

  • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I NEED A FREAKING DRINK!!!

    My guy and I were joking tonight about what happens when teetolers need a drink: They go to a Dunkin’ Donuts to get tall white hot chocolates.

    And nobody yelp at me about how sugary goodness is bad for us, too. After the night we’ve had, we need a freakin’ drink. Any night where you smell guts is a good excuse for…something.

    For the curious, what happened to us is here: http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-watched-something-die-tonight.html For my part, I still want whiskey, but since Bob doesn’t and driving around to seek out a state store (yay, Pennsylvania law!) is too much of an annoyance, I’m gonna have to settle for the sugar.

    Dunkin’ Donuts white hot chocolates are reeaaaallly good, though. (But a sometimes-food).

  • DomainDiva

    Does anyone remember William Powell as the Thin Man?

    “Darling, I’m hungry, let’s get a drink!”, with a cigarette in hand as well.


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