(7) On Drunk Driving

     In AA and the group therapy for recovering addicts I go to once a week, I meet a lot of people with DUI/DWI (in New York, it wasn’t nearly as common because most New Yorkers don’t have cars).  Some of them have two DUIs, and now they have to breath into a breathalizer in order to start their cars once they finally get their license reinstated after a year’s suspension.  And some of these incorrigible recalcitrant assholes have three DUIs and spent nine months in jail, and now they’re either on foot or having their long-suffering relatives drive them around.  

        Yeah, I’m not there to judge the other junkies.  Yeah, I shouldn’t “take someone else’s inventory,” as they say in the rooms.  I know, I know, I know. 

       I’m going to do it anyway: If you drive drunk, you are an asshole.  And 3-time losers need to somehow be kept off the road until they sober up and keep their shit together for a long time, like 5 years.  

           Unfortunately, I can’t think of any solutions.  Incarceration is the only way the State can prevent a person who wants to drive from driving.  Unless you want to start chopping off hands or punishing their family members, which isn’t going to fly under American jurisprudence.   

           Honestly: what can be done?   The penalties for drunk driving are already severe.  The only way to make them more draconian would be increased jail time.   Jail is a very expensive way to deal with a stupid alcoholic. But what are the lives of the more than 10,000 people who die in alcohol-impaired driving crashes worth?  A trained insurance agent can quantify the value of an individual.  The suffering caused by a person’s maiming or untimely death is considerably harder to measure (although the courts try).  

         I was arrested for driving drunk.  Actually, it was Minor in Possession, because I was only 20 at the time, and my blood alcohol level was below the legal limit, but under state law, the penalties were the same.  I drove a few hours out of town to watch some illegal boxing matches, had five or six drinks, and then started to drive back.  I was pulled over in the middle of nowhere by a Highway Patrolman.  For a busted tail-light!  He arrested me and I spent the night in jail.  I wish I could post a picture of the jail and the town (if you can call it a town)–you’d die.  It was an awful experience.   When I posted bail the next day, I asked the bondsman why it was so fucking expensive, given that I had no prior offenses.  

              “The judge doesn’t think it’s a minor offense.  That’s why.  He knows that by the time a person actually gets caught driving drunk, they’ve probably done it twenty, thirty, forty times,” said the bondsman.  

             And he was right. 

             It wasn’t the first time I drove drunk.  I’d done it probably 10 or 12 times.  That’s the truth.  

             It was, however, the last time I drove drunk.  90-day suspension, jumping through hoops for the court, $500 in fines, the cost of the lawyer…getting my car out of impound…paying for the tow truck…I’d say that mistake cost me about $2500.  Plus all of the humiliation and inconvenience, of course.  

           What really convinced me to never drink and get behind the wheel, though, was the Victim Impact Awareness Panel I had to attend as part of my sentencing.  Five or six people stood in front of the room and told us what drunk drivers had cost them.   One was the mother of a teenaged boy who’d just been accepted to Notre Dame.  He was killed by a drunk driver with two prior convictions.  Another speaker was a guy who drove drunk and suffered massive brain damage from the impact when he wrapped his car around a telephone pole.  He was in a motorized wheelchair and couldn’t speak clearly.  

             I leaked tears through the whole thing, which is unusual for me, and that was it: I instituted a 1-drink policy.  I never had more than one and drove afterward.  I got a ride, or took cabs, or walked.  I was done.  It was not acceptable to me to risk bringing that pain and grief into other people’s lives. 

           Drunk driving is almost never an accident.  Habitual offenders display deep selfishness and callous disregard.  I feel very strongly about this.  

           I don’t know what else to say.  This essay is not very good.  I wrote it because I have to write and post something before midnight, and I was thinking about all the drunk drivers in AA on my way home.


2 thoughts on “(7) On Drunk Driving”

  1. You are 100% correct.

    We’ve got 3 children. We’ve told each of them that if they have even one beer, not to get behind the wheel, nor get into a car with anyone who has. We’ve told them that we will pick up them and their friends and take them home, no questions asked, no repercussions, any time of night. If they have friends sleep over, and there is drinking, we collect keys.

    In our town, our high school has lost one child a year in the last three to car accidents, though none this year so far, and two involved drinking.

    Never become a parent…it’s just too scary. Everyday I have to hope that they’ll somehow survive their late teens and twenties. After that, I have to keep hoping.

    If you go back to being a pro domme, and you get a drunk who plans on driving, do me a favor and rip his nuts off.

  2. “I drove a few hours out of town to watch some illegal boxing matches . . .”

    As someone who grew up in the well-to-do suburbs of NYC, this is fascinating.
    I have never met anyone or heard of anyone going to illegal fights. I thought these Fight Clubs were a movie fantasy. Tell me more.

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, but now I think of you as being from an alien culture.

    About drunk driving, I have nothing to add. I knew quite a few people who got into the program through drunk driving arrests.

    John

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