You Can Help with This Problem


This is the 11th in a collection of newspaper ads from United Technologies that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the original ad.

Consider this:
Since 1941,
World War II,
and Vietnam,
519,264 Americans
were killed
in combat.
Since 1941,
1,788,400 Americans
were killed
on our highways.
Many of 
them killed
of drunk
if you can’t
do anything about
acid rain,
the budget,
inflation, or
interest rates,
you can do
drunk driving.
Press your judges.
Press your legislators.
Two more things:
Don’t drink and
And take
the car keys
from friends
who want to.

This ad looks at drunk driving and notes while there may be some things that are outside your control, there is something you can do about drunk driving.

The most obvious is don’t drink and drive. It should also be obvious that you don’t let friends drink and drive. The ad also mentioned pressuring judges and legislatures with respect to drunk driving laws.

This ad was written in 1980, and unfortunately drunk driving is still a problem, but there seems to be some gradual improvement. People are more aware of the issues, the blood alcohol limit for drunk driving has been lowered nationally to .08, the legal drinking age was raised to 21 in every state, and the penalties have gotten tougher if convicted of drunk driving.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, since 1980 (the year that MADD was started), the number of deaths caused by drunk driving has been cut in half.

So while that is a positive sign, the fact remains that on an average day in the U.S. in 2014, 28 people were killed as a result of drunk driving crashes.

Many people believe that despite tougher laws and reducing the BAC to .08, that the U.S. is still too soft. In many European countries the BAC is .05, in others it is .02, and in some countries it is essentially zero. The result of these tougher standards is that the percentage of driving deaths that are alcohol related are much lower in these countries.

In Switzerland, for example, when the BAC was reduced from .05 to .02 ,the number of driving deaths that were alcohol related dropped to about 16%, while in the U.S., the percentage is about 32%. It should be noted that in 1982, the rate in the U.S. was 60%, so it has improved. But is also shows that there is room for much more improvement, and that such changes are effective.

In addition to laws and penalties, technology may also be a way to fight drunk driving. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety program is working to develop a first-of-its-kind technology that will be made available as another safety option in new vehicles. The technology detects when a driver is intoxicated with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit, and will prevent the car from moving. It will be unnoticeable to all other drivers. While some may say such a solution is too intrusive, I don’t see how it’s much different than wanting airbags in a car.

Self-driving cars may also help combat this problem, but I am sure there will be a lot of discussion and regulations surrounding drinking and self-driving cars once they become a reality.

My hope is that 30 years from now, as a result of a combination of better laws, better enforcement, tougher penalties, technology innovations, and perhaps most important of all, greater personal responsibility, we will have solved this problem.

And as a result, there will be 28 more people alive each day who have the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones.


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