The Next Step is to Treat Drunk Drivers the Way We Treat Smokers!

Now if you smoke, you already know what I’m getting at.  You go to the park, or the beach, or maybe just walk down the street smoking in public and people give you dirty looks.  But it doesn’t stop there, does it?  No. 

Somebody will most likely come up and directly confront you – PUT THAT OUT!   WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?  HOW DARE YOU?  And that’s the polite ones. 

Smoking has become vilified in our society to the point where if you smoke in public, you can expect somebody to harass you.  Contemporary etiquette Demands that smokers ask if it is OK before lighting up.  People feel ENTITLED to tell you to your face not to smoke around them.

You get nagged by complete strangers if you are a smoker.  If you drink and drive, however, the mood is entirely different. smoker

Suppose you are sitting in a bar or restaurant with a friend.  You’ve downed a few beers, and you’re ready to go.  Your friend gives you a handshake and a wave as you leave.  The couple at the next table gives you a polite smile and everyone is happy … as you get in your car … at like a .09. 

One of the reasons many people drink and drive is because they can!  They have a built-in support group called ‘modern society’ with representatives in every bar, restaurant, and party ready to smile and wave goodbye as they watch each other stagger to their cars.  People can drink and drive because they know that other than the cops, nobody else is going to harass them.  This is how smoking used to be!  Other than your doctor, nobody was going to get in your face about it.  That was before smoking became vilified.

The vilification of drunk driving is a social change waiting to happen.  Too few are willing to say, “Hey there!  You’d better wait a while before getting in your car.  There’s too much of that drunk driving crap going on!”  They don’t feel entitled to tell you off about driving after drinking like they will if they catch you smoking.

Like the air, we all share the roads.  We HAVE an entitlement to drunk-free roads the same as we have an entitlement to smoke-free air.  I would even argue that we have a far greater entitlement to drunk-free roads because, unlike the whisp of second hand smoke, a drunk driver can maim or kill you immediately and effectively. 

Americans need to recognize this entitlement and embrace it.  It shouldn’t be as easy as it is to sit around drinking with friends right before hopping in the car and driving away.  Friends and complete strangers should get up the courage to speak out and stop people from getting in their cars after drinking.  Look at how many drunk driving stories state the offender was leaving a party/get-together/dinner with friends/family/coworkers.  Look at how preventable these are!

All you non-smokers should compare the ‘danger’ of second-hand smoke and ‘horror’ of cigarette butts littering the sand to drunk drivers spilling blood (possibly yours) all over the streets you drive on.  Then, get up and get in people’s faces before they can drive drunk the way you do when somebody has the unmitigated audacity to light up in your general vicinity.

And for those of you who smoke, guess what?  Here is YOUR chance to join in the fun everybody has been having at your expense.  You too can approach your friends and even complete strangers when you see them about to drive after drinking.  You can get in their face, prevent an instance of drunk driving, and quite possibly save a life.

As I said, this requires a societal change.  Enough of us have to do this to make it work.  It can begin with even the small number of people reading this blog.  The way smokers are commonly treated in public began with a few people here and there expressing their entitlement, getting in somebody’s face, and showing people they weren’t going to take it anymore.  Other people saw this and ran with it.  It spread and here we are today where you can’t light a cigarette at the beach.  Drunk driving deserves this treatment, don’t you think? 

We can do it.  YOU can do it!  Check out this video about how to spread a concept.  A drunk guy (ironic, I know) is doing a crazy dance at a festival.  Another guy gets up to mock him.  The drunk guy teaches the other guy how to do his particular crazy dance.  More people get up and join in, watching and teaching each other how to do the dance.  Before you know it, the entire crowd is doing the same crazy dance and it all started with one drunk guy.  All we have to do is recognize the opportunity to prevent somebody from driving after drinking and jump on it.  Others, seeing this, will follow. 

Here is an interview I did on Ridin Dirty – The Radio Show August 2, 2010 which touches on this topic.

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Allen Porter
Dedicated to teaching and inspiring the prevention of drunk driving.

3 Responses

  1. Rico
    Rico June 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm |

    Going a little overboard on how smokers are treated aren’t we? “Somebody will most likely…WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? and HOW DARE YOU?” I have worked in the guest service industry for 18 years and my establishment sees over 2000 guests per day. The worst I have seen is a rude hand waving gesture or “Will you please not smoke at this table?” What I do see is myself and many of my co-workers attending training to recognize intoxicated guests and the methods of handling them. We do not let them drive if we know they are intoxicated. My opinion is your blog would create more awareness if you had given more information about how the public can join the anti drinking and driving campaign and less about how smokers are mistreated. I am not sure an immediate death by a drunk driver is worse than a slow death caused by second hand smoking. In fact, if you were to pledge to quit smoking this would most likely get others on board with you.

    Reply
  2. Accrington Driving School
    Accrington Driving School July 30, 2011 at 10:16 am |

    That is really good post , but there is little question of expecting someone to challenge these offenders and that can lead to undesired violence. We have law authrities who have skill and resources to tacke this issue and they should be encouraged to do so.

    Reply
  3. Jason Epstein
    Jason Epstein August 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm |

    Really good post – couldn’t agree more. As a Seattle car accident attorney, I help victims in drunk driving cases, and am constantly appalled at the number of these types of accidents every year. I believe that we are on the right track in terms of educating people on the dangers of drunk driving, and society as a whole is close to deeming it as evil as smoking in someone’s face. A major problem that we need to understand, is that even though people are properly educated in regards to drunk driving, a lot of people see themselves as the exception to the danger and think they can still drive when they’re intoxicated. A shift in our cultural acceptance of drunk driving is absolutely key to solving this problem. Blogs like this one, and mine are a good start to properly inform people about dangers on the road and will hopefully make a significant difference.

    Reply

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