Eliminating Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities: What Can Be Done?


Drunken driving has never been harmless. People have been killed by drunks in cars since cars. It wasn’t until 13 year old Cari Lightner of Fair Oaks California was slaughtered in 1980 by a drunk driver and her mom got mad enough to form MADD and get legislation enacted that the public woke up to the magnitude of the problem. Prior to that drunk driving was too often tolerated by law enforcement and accepted by the public. Even today it’s too tolerated. Time to change.


“Fully functional” as in they know what’s going on, and they know that they should not be driving.

In other words, “Gee, I was drunk and just didn’t know what I was doing and that’s why I drove” is a BS excuse because you have to be pretty close to blackout drunk not to know what you’re doing.

Most drunk drivers know full well they’re drunk and choose to drive anyway. They’re functional enough to know that they are not sober.


Maybe I am misinterpreting “fully functional” but I think it is an unrealistic expectation to expect everyone driving or at work to be fully functional. That’s just the way it is. One guy gets five hours sleep and the next guy gets eight. Are they both fully functional and what would be red line? 6 hours, 7 hours? How about someone that just isn’t feeling well and their mind is maybe wandering? At what point is a person not functional enough to drive on a clear freeway? That was the only point that it is a continuum, from one extreme to the other. People just don’t stop their daily activities because they are a little less than at 100% is all. Your lawyer will charge the same rate whether he had a good nights sleep or not.


My definition of “fully functional” is an individual that can perform cognitive tasks with the same proficiency, speed, and accuracy that he/she can totally sober. Nobody who’s “had a few” can. Many have developed behaviors that mimic sobriety in order to cover their inebriation, and many convince themselves and others that they’re “fully functional”, but when tested, they fail. Those people often kill others when a situation requiring split-second cognitive abilities, such as a child running out into the street, confront them. “Sober” level cognition requires a sober driver.


You just spoke to our point right there. They know full well they’re drunk. They’re choosing to do something that their inebriation state makes more dangerous.

We’re not suggesting that people who have been drinking to excess should drive, we’re suggesting that people who have been drinking to excess know what they’ve done, know they’re drunk, and should be expected to make the decision on their own not to drive - and if they make the wrong choice I personally am completely comfortable with throwing a very big book at them.


I agree that they know they’re drunk. I never disagreed with that point.
I adamantly disagree that they’re “fully functional”. I adamantly disagree with that point.
Many do, however, convince themselves that they are “fully functional”. Many even have developed the ability to convince others around them, who generally are also drinking.

I also believe that there are way too many who are on the border of legally drunk, but not quite, who are much less functional than they believe themselves to be. If all goes normally, they might get home safely. But in the event when they need to be fully in charge of their senses, such as a child in the street, they’re suddenly unable to react fast enough.

For generations we treated drunken driving with a “wink and a nod”. It’s gotten better than it was a few generations ago, but it should not be tolerated at all.

In truth, shadow, I think the only thing we’re disagreeing about is the level of self-awareness. There are too many drinkers who think they’re sober enough to drive and are not. Yup, there are also many who know they’re drunk but drive anyway. We need to do everything possible to rid the roads of both.


A little off track but the Minnesota Legislature is now considering a bill to make any hand held use of phones illegal when driving. Of course again the two citizens pushing for it have lost loved ones due to distracted driving. Like my law professor said "there has never been a law that someone somewhere didn’t want. Of course my flip phone is not blue tooth enabled so that means I’d have to pull over on the freeway to receive or make a quick call. We all know how safe it is on the side of the interstate where even police are run into.

At any rate some of the comments have been that it is not the phone that is the distraction but the conversation. My insurance agent agrees that talking on the phone whether hand held or not is the same distraction. So is singing along with the radio. In that long continuum of distractions or not being fully engaged, texting is one extreme and taking a sip of coffee is another. Then there is also the issue of the road and the type of conditions. City street or clear freeway. Snow or good weather. Traffic or no traffic. There are too many variables to consider. Sorry but I don’t think we need more laws and even though our Gov will sign anything like this, it doesn’t appear the Legislature is going to pass it. I agree.


I will say that those who defend impaired driving do so because, they either have or had in the past driven impaired. An alcoholic apologist. You will never get thru to these selfish people.


Out of curiosity, bearing in mind that the bill is being pushed because the current law isn’t working (it forbids accessing the web, so all you have to do when you’re pulled over for staring at your phone is claim you were making a phone call) how would you solve the rampant texting-while-driving problem without a law?


Well I don’t believe a more stringent law will solve anything. This is the vicious circle. People propose the wrong solution to a problem like establishing a law (pick a current subject that some people are hot about and they want more laws). Then when the solution doesn’t work they think they need a sticker law with more consequences, and so on down the primrose path. When either the initial problem was not properly identified in the first place or the solution did not fit the real problem. Ya really think no hands phone use will solve anything? Like .08 or whatever it is has solved anything? So maybe it should be .06 or nothing for 24 hours like a pilot. That would take care of the problem-not.


More stringent laws are only part of the solution. Court systems and penal systems that fail us are as significant to the problems as are the laws. Long time chronic repeat offenders of serious crimes that endanger society (I’m speaking specifically to drunk driving right now) continue to receive penalties that do nothing to stop them from continuing their behaviors. There’s more sympathy for them than there is for their victims.

Distracted driving has become a serious problem, but I don’t lump it in with DUI convictions. Drunk driving is, to me, the more serious of the two.
I don’t honestly know what might stop distracted driving. Perhaps additional training with more sophisticated training tools that can replicate the dangers. But where the money would come from for that technology is beyond me. I have some funding ideas of my own, but I really don’t want to drag this thread down the road of politics. That happens too easily and too often here for my taste. Perhaps upon conviction for distracted driving a bright colored license plate that would show other drivers that the driver has been cited for distracted driving would humiliate the driver into changing his./her behaviors. If the driver then drove for some specified period, perhaps a year, he/she could go back to a regular plate. Repeat offenses could make the plate permanent for that driver. It’d be worth trying.


OK, I understand that, but you didn’t tell me how the problem can be solved. Under the current law, people can break that law without getting caught by simply lying to the cop. The cop has no way of verifying what they were doing on their phone so absent removing the law commonly known as the 4th amendment, the idea was to pass a law to replace the one that isn’t working.

So what’s your solution?


Autonomous automobiles offer a painless solution to both distracted and intoxicated driving. Could that be a driving force behind developing them?


Maybe its just one of those things that can’t be solved or the solution would be worse than the disease. With freedom comes risks. There are lots of things like that.


my quote “The good old days, if you did not hurt anything no harm no foul”
Your quote “Drunken driving has never been harmless.”

Listening is not one of my strong points either.


Barky, what is your point?


My point is it used to be no harm no foul, You “Drunken driving has never been harmless.” Yes drunken driving has been harmless to those who have not gotten caught or caused damage. How often do you want me to repeat this? I have a 2 beer limit, so I am not condoning drunk driving, but the drunk drivers are out there, and they are not all caught or cause damage to others.


And because I disagree with you, adamantly I might add, you think I’m not “listening”? Interesting way of justifying the position that yours is the only correct perspective. Hey, you’re not a teacher here and I’m not a student.

If a man walked through the center of your town for an hour every morning randomly firing off an automatic assault rifle, with townspeople and children milling about on the streets, but he never managed to hit anyone, would that be okay too? No harm, no foul?


You have gone from a drunken driver to an AR? I have nothing against you personally yet… And have liked a few of your answers I believe, If you want to make a fight of this your choice.


30 years ago I used to sit on my deck and plug the gophers in my back yard with my .22. Yes it was in town but on the outskirts. I had a good back drop so no chance of a ricochet or going beyond the target. One of those critters got a surprise when he chewed through the pool liner. At any rate that was before everyone was hysterical about firearms. I’m a block away now but wouldn’t dare do that now under threat of unlawful discharge. People just gotta loosen up a bit.

Just for the record though, when on jury duty we had a case where a guy was fighting a DUI on his cycle. We voted to convict.