Drunk driving is a policy choice
Plus: Spuds MacKenzie… trans icon?
Editor’s note: No Fingers Weekender this Sunday. Hope you’re able to a) take Memorial Day off and b) enjoy it safely. Please don’t drive drunk. I’ll see you on the other side!—Dave.
Folly Beach is a little hamlet in the greater Charleston metropolitan area, hard by the Atlantic Ocean. I’m partial to it because my wife and I spent a fair amount of time there when we lived in the area, but for all intents and purposes, it’s your standard-issue beach town.
A few weeks ago, a drunk driver going 40 miles an hour over the speed limit on a Folly Beach road plowed her vehicle into a golf cart1 carrying a newlywed couple that had been married earlier that evening. The groom survived with injuries; the bride “died on the road in her wedding dress.” Incredibly grisly stuff. Not that there’s a good time to be slaughtered by a drunk driver, but a wedding night at 34 years young is probably about as bad as it gets unless there are children involved. Which of course there often are.
A few days after this fatal accident, I was on Facebook trying to sell some shit—please buy my like-new WiFi router, thank you—when I stumbled across a post on a Charleston food & beverage industry page. The poster was encouraging people not to be so judgmental towards the driver, a 26 year-old woman who reportedly worked at a restaurant in Charleston. I thought this was remarkably compassionate for Facebook in general and this page2 in particular, so I kept reading (emphasis mine, all sic):
[A] lot of y’all are quick to say terrible shit like “Jamie [the driver] can rot in jail” “she’s a murderer” etc etc BUT that could have been ANY one of us. I’ve seen specific mfs say shit like that who have NO room to even comment on this situation. Y’all drink and drive as if its the norm.
I say y’all quit wishing the worst for Jamie and instead hope some kind of good could come out of this… such as a wake up call for this community to Fuckin chill on the drinking and driving and for her to be an advocate for such.
Ah. Close, but no potato. I of course agree that this senseless killing should be a wakeup call about the dangers of drunk driving, but I doubt it’ll fix the problem, for two reasons. First, people are dumb and selfish and have terrible capacity for assessing risk. Telling people to “Fuckin chill on the drinking and driving” is like telling them to floss: no one really disagrees on the merits of healthy gums, but flossing is inconvenient and time-consuming and it doesn’t really seem like it matters, so people skip it sometimes. Who cares? Not me, what you do with your mouth is your own business. But drunk driving is everybody’s business, because it takes place in public. If roads are a public good, drunk driving is a public bad. Which brings us to Reason #2: individual choices are not a good solution to systemic problems. Appealing to people’s decision-making faculties (bad!) means the outcome is reliant on that decision-making (worse!) To solve this problem, we need more imagination about what’s possible.