I sit here today getting ready to take my spouse to the hospital for surgery almost two in a half weeks after a drunk driver hit them head on in a car collision. It was on that date that our lives changed. My spouse will always carry a certain fear of a driver heading right at them at 40 MPH, and the injuries will forever bother them. For me, my life stopped, as I became a caregiver and also deal with the paperwork that a drunk driving accident that caused serious injuries can create and it got me thinking…
I will never know why people get in cars drunk and drive. Clearly the laws will never be strict enough, as far as I am concerned, first offense you should lose your right to drive period. No questions asked. Who knows maybe one day our laws may protect innocent people. This made me want to do some research and go down retro lane and look at the history of our laws around drinking and driving.
It all began in 1897 when a London taxi driver named George Smith was the first arrest for drunk-driving was made. This poor old chap slammed his cab into a building while he was intoxicated, who knows if he had people in that cab. He was the first recorded person to be arrested, plead guilty and pay a small fine. It was recognized that perhaps drinking and driving was not the smartest thing.
Meanwhile, back in the USA, in 1910, New York became the first state to have drunk-driving laws. Right behind New York was California and soon everyone else followed. Then in the 1930s committees were formed to try to make American roads a little safer, in the process the National Safety Council set up a study to develop tests that could be used to determine intoxication and in 1938 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was developed and in 1939, Indiana became the first state to enact a BAC law. The Blood Alcohol Content level to determine a drunk driver was set at a .15 or nearly twice today’s .08 national legal limit.
In 1953, Robert Borkenstein, a former police captain as well as a university professor helped develop the “Drunkometer” which then became the breathalyzer. With all this wonderful technology, you would think that people would have understood it was not safe to drive. It wasn’t until the late 70s that people began to understand the dangers of drinking and driving.
In 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) was founded by Candy Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Lightner discovered that the driver had three previous DUI convictions. She was so angry and wanted to do something she not only formed MADD, she and her organization helped with tougher laws for those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol as well as pushed to have the legal drinking age raised to 21.
Every since man could drink there have been drinking with transportation issues whether it was drinking and walking, drinking and driving a stage coach or a horse, or drinking and driving a car. What we have yet to learn from history is people drink and get behind a wheel people can die, in fact every 39 minutes someone dies because a drunk got in a car. It is interesting to watch the progression of laws and will be more interesting as laws, we hope, become stricter.