Let’s start cracking down on drunken driving

The number of road fatalities in Florida dropped 42 percent between 2006 and 2014 as a result of sobriety checkpoints, DUI checkpoints and laws that banned the sale of intoxicating liquor between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. A similar effort, the installation of speed limit cameras, reduced the number of Wisconsin deaths by 32 percent between 2002 and 2011, reducing the average number of automobile accidents by 23 percent. Wisconsin is more liberal about liquor sales, per capita.

These safety improvements in Florida, Wisconsin and Colorado, where density of residents is significantly higher than the average population for a state, illustrate a danger implicit in not wanting to do such a thing: think of a child of three, driving a dark sedan, with its owner far too impaired, between midnight and 2 a.m. On a moonless, foggy, rainy evening, distracted by a four-bar neon “open” sign, the license plate recognition reading on your cell phone as you drive and the high school kids trying to make the 11 p.m. drop off, you could be left at a cross street, where you might not even notice a child, let alone a speeding stranger, and possibly there won’t be a cross street until two or three minutes later, in order to allow a homicide investigation to carry on.

Are “cities” declining? Am I being inhospitable? Am I advocating for drunkenness? These latest results are stunning to me. Shouldn’t they be sufficient proof that a prohibition — that is, a law requiring someone to forfeit the capacity to accept any risk — is morally dubious, politically incorrect and probably unpopular with police officers who in every community use alcohol and alcohol-related laws as a tool of enforcement. Anyone think that we should not have big meetings about alcohol and drugs, seek greater data-based understanding of the association between alcohol consumption and risk, and for that matter to decriminalize substances? Shouldn’t the discussion occur amongst peers, like a social high school situation? That is, why not stand up in a beer garden for a moment, share a laugh with people who are just talking about their grievances? Share something about what you are worried about in your real life?

Yes, the sense of community is a pleasure, but so is freedom to make your own choice. What you do is your choice, yet some people want alcohol regulation. They think that is morally righteous. Who are they?

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