Things you cannot talk about: How to drive drunk

by phil on Saturday May 30, 2009 1:44 PM
mainfeed, third way thinking

Anybody who drinks regularly will have driven at least once with a BAC of .08 or higher. That's a fact. I should know, because I have a breathalyzer and use it on friends, and everybody replies, "Oh man, I've driven at that level before."

Having said that, what tips do you have for driving while drunk? Since drunk driving is so prevalent (apparently 1 in 10 drivers in Austin between 10pm and 4am is drunk), should we teach drivers tips on how to be safe even if you have to drive home drunk? What if I told you I had a pamphlet on tips for drunk driving that decreased drunk-driving related accidents by 50%? Would you want to hand that out at the DPS offices?

No, that would be absurd.

But then, isn't it absurd to talk about protected sex among teenagers? Isn't it absurd to hand out condoms in middle and high school?

I'm not saying I side with the Christian Right on this one, but I think it's a challenging thought experiment. What does it mean to be offended by one conversation but not by the other?


david said on June 1, 2009 7:23 PM:

The chief difference between sex and drunk driving is that we see teen sex as something over which we--the people who think it's unwise, dangerous, or what have you--have little effective agency. But we can--by choosing to act responsibly--avoid drunk driving.

If we were to accept the inevitability of drunk driving, I think we would embrace your pamphlet. But so long as we believe that responsible people ("adults") can act responsibly and can be held accountable for doing so, we'll shun any method of coping with the behavior.

Tangential note: until I was 10, I thought "Don't drink and drive" meant "Don't consume any liquid while in the act of operating a motor vehicle." I'd cringe whenever the driver would take a sip of water while cruising down the highway.

Philip Dhingra said on June 3, 2009 1:42 AM:

So yes, I'd go with the assumption that drunk driving is something we have little effective agency. It's something that requires planning, like remembering to bring condoms with you. Once you've had one or two drinks, you can't really trust what you think. So many people do it, and so many people wish they did it less.

And I don't think this slant is necessarily liberal or conservative, because drunk drivers affect my liberties and safety. They aren't just harming themselves. Often the sad story will be that the guy with the DUI walks and the victim is dead or permanently damaged.

Pierre said on June 3, 2009 3:51 PM:

The analogy seems off. I mean yeah, a pamphlet on how best to drive drunk would be absurd. But so would a pamphlet on how best to have unprotected sex. Just don't drink and drive. And don't have unprotected sex. They don't seem incongruous. Maybe you're saying "protected" sex is not 100% safe? But sober driving isn't 100% percent safe either.

Philip said on June 3, 2009 3:55 PM:

The religious right would slightly tweak your message and replace "don't have unprotected sex." with "don't have premarital sex." In which case, handing out condoms in school would be the equivalent of me handing out drunk-driving pamphlets.

Pierre said on June 3, 2009 5:02 PM:

True, the religious right might be equally offended by free condoms and your drunk-driving pamphlets. They may be also offended by my pamphlet that lists cab companies to call when you're drunk, because it's being drunk that's the sin. They see through the lens of morality, and things are black and white. But if you come at this through the lens of personal safety, protected sex and "informed-drunk-driving" might pose wildly different risks, maybe even to the point of absurdity.

Jeff said on June 5, 2009 3:11 PM:

I think it's a great idea. We should be teaching this. No one could be opposed to taking safety precautions when driving drunk. Would they rather wreckless drunk driving?

Wollff said on June 22, 2009 6:43 AM:

So there might be flyers with tips, reducing the "drunk driving risk" by 50%. First I doubt that such a thing could exist. Since your reaction times and judgement are impaired when drunk, I would be really surprised if you could decrese the risk of an accident by 50% through some simple tricks that could be reliably executed, even when drunk.

Drunk driving is inherently more risky than teenage sex, since you put more people at risk, who might not have the slightest thing to do with your stupidity. As a stupid teenager mainly you and your partner have to face the consequences of your actions. That's the main difference and the reason why drunk driving is forbidden.

Your hypothetical driving flyers reduce the risk of an accident by 50%. A condom reduces the risk of an accident by at least 80% (worst estimates I found, probably caused by wrong use), to 98% when used correctly.

If you had a flyer, which reduced the risk of drunk driving accidents by 98% when used correctly, we probably would have to talk about drunk driving and the legality of it.

To conclude: With teenage sex you first of all have personal choice. You are free to choose either to do it or not. So you should know about the risks involved and the means to reduce them. Most importantly you are the one responsible for your actions. There is no risk to kill several people through your stupidity, which makes those two things quite different from each other.

Philip Dhingra said on June 22, 2009 10:09 AM:

You're right about how you laying out the risk differences. It requires two people making bad choices to have unprotected teenage sex (except in cases of rape).

As with the free choice argument, though, I'd say that in cases of both drunk driving and unprotected sex, nobody is thinking straight.

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