A recent Justice Talking episode focused on the question: Are drinking and driving laws too punitive? It’s possibly a good question, but it seems a better one is: When simply making a behavior illegal and increasing punishment for that behavior does so little to stop it, shouldn’t we look for other solutions to the problem?
Much of our society is rabidly against drinking and driving. It’s one of the only crimes you see advertised in the media on a regular basis—don’t drink and drive, friends don’t let friends drink and drive, etc. Many of these ads are even paid for by the alcohol industry. Yet, at the same time, that industry is actively advertising its products and our society is very accepting of the consumption of alcohol so long as people don’t consume and then drive. Also at the same time we have a car culture; our society and physical space is designed around the individual driver of the individual vehicle.
So we have a dilemma: We basically encourage drinking — it’s a big industry and many off us enjoy it. Prohibition didn’t work because so many people just like a drink now and then. Yet, we also fail to provide adequate alternatives to driving in order to get from A to B, and specifically from bar to home after a night of fun. And although cabs are available in larger towns and cities, people are often reluctant to call a cab to get home from the bar because they know they’ll face the problem in the morning of somehow retrieving their car, or having it towed before they can do that, etc.
Instead of continuing to encourage people to do two incompatible things, why not provide an alternative? Here’s one idea that will never happen but which I think would greatly reduce the incidence of DUI : Require establishments that serve alcohol to provide rides to anyone who purchases a drink. But not just that, the ride also will include a transport of your personal vehicle back to your home with you. That would mean each bar would have to employ at least two people for transportation services — one to drive you and one to drive your car home. It would be costly, but it would eliminate a lot of the excuses people use for driving home after they know they’ve had one or a few too many.