Drunk Driving Down. WAY Down. But Don’t Pop The Bubbly Just Yet!

Vinted on October 21, 2011 binned in wine news

The irrepressible Tom Johnson reported recently  on Louisville Juice that according to the CDC drunk driving in the U.S. continues its steep decline – to the tune of a 30% drop in self-reported annual drinking and driving episodes since 2006.

Tom goes on to say that “fatalities related to drinking and driving have dropped nearly 70% since 1982, from 26,000 to 11,000.”

Your first reaction to all of that good news (and it is very good news – because also according to the CDC, “car crashes are the leading cause of death for everyone ages 5-34 and that 1 in 3 crash deaths involves a drunk driver” – so any drop in drunk driving equates to a potentially significant reduction in preventable fatalities), like mine, was probably “holy crap, that’s awesome!”

But… it’s not quite time just yet to pop the bubbly in celebration (assuming of course that you’ve got a designated driver if not popping those corks in the safety of your own home!). As someone who often has to drive myself to and from functions where alcohol is involved (in the function, that is, not in the driving!), I’m the kind of guy who often pays particular attention to trying to do whatever I can to prevent tragic alcohol-related disasters. Rule the first at wine events: SPIT (and gently admonish organizers if they don’t provide spit cups or buckets)!

And while we’ve come a long way, baby, in terms of one of those tragic disasters (drunk driving), we’ve also got a long way to go, baby…

In its latest findings, the CDC also included some (for lack of a better term) sobering statistics related to drunk driving in the U.S.:

  • In 2010, adults in the U.S. drove drunk some 112 million times – still way, way too high for anyone to feel reasonably comfortable about the safety of driving on our roadways.
  • Most drunk driving episodes (85% of them) were self-reported by binge drinkers (defined as those who have “5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women during a short period of time.”  If the self-reporting is even remotely accurate, this means that a few bad apples are seriously ruining the bunch and making our roads less safe for the more responsible among us.
  • Sorry, guys, but we totally suck: 81% (about 4 in every 5) of drunk driving episodes were by men. Especially young men (aged 21-34), who made up 32% of all drunk driving instances in 2010 but only make up about 11% of the U.S. population.

What does this tell us?

While it’s difficult to draw any definitive conclusions (at least one source – The Washington Post – suggested that the down economy might be partially responsible for the reduction in drunk driving), it certainly looks like young men have a long way to go and might not be getting the education they need in terms of preventing drunk driving incidents, and binge drinkers might not be getting the help that they need to get better generally.

Having said that, I’m a big proponent of taking personal responsibility, getting off your duff, and doing something about it when there’s a problem – and when it comes to drinking and driving in the U.S., there is most definitely still a problem. To that end, I’ll share the CDC’s tips for individuals to help put the steel boot on the wheels of drinking of driving:

  • Choose not to drink and drive and help others do the same: Before drinking, designate a nondrinking driver when with a group. If out drinking, get a ride home or call a taxi. Don’t let friends drink and drive.
  • Choose not to binge drink yourself and help others not to do it.
  • Talk with a doctor or nurse about drinking and driving and get counseling if drinking is causing you health, work, or social problems.
  • Buckle up every time, no matter how short the trip. Encourage passengers in the car to buckle up, including those in the back seat.

Do I take those seriously? Look at it this way – I often have to drive my daughter short distances within our neighborhood. I buckle us both up for those trips, and they only last about 90 seconds.

I’ll leave you with this bit of inspiration to help you think twice about getting behind the wheel in the future after you’ve been tying one on one, courtesy of quirky rocker-turned-wine-guy Les Claypool (who I very recently interviewed):

“Drunk driving is quite possibly the most selfish, irresponsible, asinine and dipsh*tty-ist thing that a human being could partake in. It is my opinion that a person who is responsible for harming any individual while driving intoxicated should be tied down whilst having their eyeballs sucked out by a randy male goat.”

In my home state of PA, DUI infractions can net you anywhere from 5 days to 5 years in jail, along with thousands of dollars in fines, but that might be small beer in relation to the knowledge of how much of a dipsh*t you were drinking and driving in the first place – and as for the randy goat suggestion by Les… well, that would be some fitting punishment!

Cheers – and stay safe (and responsible!) out there!





  • RichardPF

    Great post with a very important message!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Richard!

  • Tim

    Great post and thoughtful, I too am a firm believer in snif spit write, sniff spit thinking, but almost always spit and when dining water is my friend and for every once of vino try and have 2 oz. of H2O…cheers, nicely done!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Tim!

  • Angela

    Seriously – kudos to everyone who is NOT drinking and driving. Kudos. Great article. Thanks:)

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Angela!

  • BCD

    Working in a tasting room it amazes how many people likely have a pretty good buzz going when they get behind the wheel. Some people designate a driver but just as many don't.

    The wine tasting tourist doesn't seem to have any interest in spitting. Just the other day I had a guest ask me "How many people spit when they taste?" and my answer was "Almost none". For the most part the only people that do are people in the industry and the Europeans.

    • 1WineDude

      BCD – well, having at one point been that guy, I'm not surprised! :)

  • David

    Wait, you're saying that the chance of a fatality is 11,000 out of 112,000,000 or 0.00982%, and that's too high to feel safe on the roadway?

    • 1WineDude

      David – I’m not saying what the numbers are, but I am saying I personally don’t feel safe on the roadway and this is ONE of the contributing factors to that. Because it is 100% *preventable*, like most roadway accident-causing distractions (cell phone, texting, eating…), I think that, yeah, the percentage is still too high. It is not so much (for me, anyway) about the perception of safety or likelihood of an adverse event, it is the human cost to real lives, families, etc., all from something that is preventable. So I felt it deserved some attention here.

  • David

    You're right, it is preventable, and there's no excuse for a drunk driving accident, let alone a fatality.

    At the same time, fear of extremely low probability events is what causes misappropriation of resources.

    Anyway, just a pet peeve of mine. I enjoy your blog, and it's quite interesting that we've managed to reduce fatalities by 66% while increasing population by 50%.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, David – *great* point about the resources. In fact, it is one of the items in the fear-tactic defense used by the PLCB to justify their existence, which pisses me off to no end, so I appreciate what you are saying about the ramifications!

  • 1WineDude

    Just got this in the Inbox:

    "According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009, 48 percent of all traffic fatalities on Halloween night involved a driver or a motorcycle rider with a BAC of .08 or higher."

    Check it out at http://buzzeddriving.adcouncil.org/

    Have a safe one, people!!!

  • Trackbacks

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    Monday, 14 November, 2011

    […] would be a very good first step to get some needed support on the complexities of a DUI charge. What is the Cost of a DUI in Sonoma County? Just about every day the Sonoma County CHP issues a news…kpoints. In 2010 alone, Sonoma County had more than 3,000 DUI cases filed. If you have been arrested […]

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