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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Designated drivers can save many lives

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Well tonight is special for several reasons. People worldwide celebrate this annual rite of passage into a new year. Different cultures celebrate it in different ways of course. In this country, celebration more often than not involves alcohol. That's fine. No problem. But the concept of a designated driver is perhaps more important this evening than on any given night throughout the year.

I have beaten this dead horse time and time again. So what else does it take? Is the fact that 525 people were killed on Missouri roads last year as a result of alcohol-related accidents worth mentioning? Well it most certainly is to me because I don't want any of us to become a cold statistic that will repeated this time next year.

I first fault the individual who makes the stupid mistake of driving under the influence of alcohol. This is a personal decision and one that defies common sense. And it defies common sense because there are too many people willing and able to assist you in getting to your destination after you've enjoyed some holiday drink. So there are no excuses. End of story.

But I also fault the system to some extent. If we as a society want to make a statement on the issue of driving drunk, then we'd put some real teeth into the penalties for this crime. We'd mandate that first offenders spend a little time behind bars. We'd pull driver's licenses on the first conviction. And we wouldn't plea bargain drunk driving down to a lesser offense.

But I doubt we'll adopt these measures because drunk driving is our nasty, little secret in society that we abhor but we tend to accept. And so, in a way, we're all somewhat to blame. If we wanted to greatly diminish the problem, we'd find solutions.

But I assume that society accepts 50,000 alcohol-related deaths each year. When it hurts enough, we'll change it. Apparently it hasn't hurt enough.

Now go tell that to a family who has lost someone to drunk driving.

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