While technically criminal behaviour almost from the beginning of the automobile age, drunk driving, today, in most of the long auto-mobilized countries around the world, is generally regarded as intolerable and inexcusable.
Whether cause or effect, stricter and ever more detailed laws continue to be enacted. Parsing compliance with the technical legal limits is therefore increasingly complicated but almost beside the point. Citizens chafe and complain but also understand and appreciate the intent of these laws.
In both urban and rural environments, it appears that people are learning to plan ahead to get home safely. And it’s not that alcohol consumption levels are down. Far from it. Maybe, though, recently, what with the statistics, widely heard stories, advocacy, education programs, and stricter laws, a tipping point was finally reached.
Perhaps the carnage, the tragedy, and the waste associated with drunk driving has finally touched too many. There is now the possibility that we have learned collectively to do better, or in other words, a morality in this regard has set in. But if we have not learned, then at least we grudgingly tolerate the need for strict enforcement of legally enacted rules designed to control it.
A recently reported example of collective intolerance for the risk presented by a drunk driver occurred on the night of Saturday December 15, 2012 in Windsor, Ontario. Police had received numerous reports of an unlit ‘Jeep’ swerving all over the road. By the time the police located the vehicle, it had already been brought to heel by four or five other vehicles surrounding it thereby preventing it from traveling any further. The 41-year-old driver blew three times over the legal blood alcohol limit and was arrested for impaired driving. His vehicle was impounded for seven days and his license suspended for 90 days.
Of course there are other points of view. In British Columbia, the now two-year-old BC Motor Vehicle Act regulations that lowered the effective legal blood alcohol limits to .05 and increased the range and levels of administrative penalties continue to provoke critics.
A recent letter to the editor of The Province newspaper began by taking issue with the new ‘too low’ level of BAC for legal consequences: “Our laws say that a driver who blows .05 to .07 will have their driver’s license suspended and their car towed for three days. It will cost this driver in fines and other costs over $1,000 to get their license and car back. Were they “drunk?” He goes on to say that while he agrees that drivers with three times the limit should receive harsh sentences, “[our] drinking and driving laws paint anyone who has a beer or glass of wine as a “drunk” driver and the B.C. government is making a lot of money from it, wreaking havoc on drivers with low-alcohol driving offences in the process.”
Road Rules has pointed out in previous articles that numerous studies show significant deviation from the norm of optimal driving skill, at BAC levels over .05.