How to Stop Drinking and Driving – DUI Arrests Not Enough

Published: 02nd December 2006
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The simple answer is to not drink and drive, and for simple people that is fine. But having worked with persons convicted of drinking and driving offenses for over 20 years, I know the answer is not that straightforward.

The true answer is more complicated because alcohol is woven into the fabric our culture and society. It is a social problem as much as it is a personal one. Most people's perception of a drunk driver is of one who causes accidents and kills innocent people. This can not only be true, but painfully so to the victims of the drunk driver. But if you consider the fact that only 10% of drunken driving charges are felonies (involving injuries) that leaves 1,260,000 misdemeanor DUI arrests every year in the U.S.

Who is the 'average' drunk driver? The question again begs for a simple answer because if we could identify the problem driver then we could 'profile' him and prevent him from causing the problems associated with drinking and driving. The problem of identification, however, is in the question. There is no average drunk driver. Yes, there are more men arrested for drunk driving than women (90% men), and a vast majority of offenders are between the ages of 25 and 40. But from my experience offenders are generally 'normal' people, hard working, functional and no different from most of us. About 70% of adults drink alcohol and most of those who drink, drink and drive... legally or not.

If we are going to actually begin to reduce the negative impact drinking and driving is having on our society we must look at the reason people drink in the first place. We must evaluate how we can moderate the degree to which people consume alcohol (and other drugs) and provide alternatives that have some of the same benefits.

For as long as history can record the activities of cultures and societies alcohol has reduced stress and provided a sense of well being to people around the world. But today we live in a time that is unique in the history of our planet. Time is speeding up so rapidly the word 'relax' is only used as a goal for the weekend. In 1863 Henry David Thoreau published an article in the Atlantic Monthly (originally an 1854 lecture called "What Shall it Profit") in which he called for people to "Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives." He discussed how idleness was considered the work of the devil. Relaxation or the ability to be at ease is a missing component to what once was an essential part of our lives. In the days of earlier America it was against societal laws to run businesses on Sundays; idle days were the Law!

Today people use chemicals for all sorts of solutions. Take an aspirin, take a pill, take a drug and you can (and will) feel better. It's not the blame of commercial and business interests; it's the responsibility and the irresponsibility of every one of us: drunk drivers, drinking drivers and ordinary drivers (sleepy ones, cell phone using ones, distracted drivers, busy drivers) that put us in the condition we are facing today.

DUI Attorneys have the job of defending those charged with drunk driving. But the drivers need to understand their behavior and take responsibility for their own actions. The rule of addiction and recovery is the rule of change itself. The rule of recovery says that you won't change until you are ready. This means that you must want to change because you want something more than what you are presently experiencing (in your life, job, marriage, relationship, family, etc). Until individuals who drink and drive, or drive while distracted, suffer their fate then it will be society's responsibility to respond and to take care of the 'fall out' from these irresponsible people, through criminal and social means, until they themselves start to understand that the responsibility of one is the responsibility of all and the responsibility of all is the responsibility of one.

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