Thursday, January 05, 2006

Stupid Advertisements, Part II

There’s a billboard right down the street from where I work, telling me in big black letters that, “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

Obviously, driving while intoxicated is dangerous. So is driving while sleepy, or driving while emotionally unstable. And driving a stick while eating a foot long Subway sandwich and talking on the telephone is just as dangerous as all of the above. (And the lonely libertarian had no idea who would ever do such a thing – really.)

But sometimes it seems like the anti-drunk driving movement wanders from reasonable to the ridiculous. Ask any young person what it means to feel a buzz. They’ll tell you a buzz is what you feel after a few drinks. Maybe even one drink. Equating buzzed driving with drunk driving sends the message that if you’re going to have a drink, don’t drive period. Which is really just plain silly.

What’s the most common response to the phrase “drinking and driving?”

“Don’t do it!”

Of course, that ignores the thousands if not millions of people who drink and drive responsibly everyday. You know, the drinkers who have a glass of wine or two while at a friends or while out to eat. Or the guy who enjoys a dark lager while eating at his local sports bar and grill. But the lexicon encourages us to be fearful of all drinking and driving, regardless of what common sense may tell us.

The worst part of these advertising campaigns is that they actually go against any meaningful concept of personal responsibility. Many of us from personal experience can remember occasions when we were too drunk to drive. Many of us can also probably remember stumbling over our words in a slurred voice, “I’m waaaaayyyyy to drunk to drive.” That drunken statement was very much a statement of personal responsibility, knowing oneself and one’s abilities. Meanwhile, the idiots that drink a 12 pack and decide to drive themselves home are not responsible.

The point is that personal responsibility with regards to alcohol and driving means knowing when one is capable of driving and when one isn’t capable of driving, and knowing when to err on the side of caution. Listening to every overly cautious warning we are given is not the same as taking responsibility for oneself. Once again, it seems as though those with their hearts in the right places are capable of doing the most damage.


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