Drunk Driving Deaths: More an Outrage than a Tragedy

I will never forget one of the most horrible phone calls I ever received, even though it was over 20 years ago: “John was killed yesterday by a drunk driver”. John was a valued colleague and wonderful soul who died young when someone driving on a suspended license (lost due to a prior drunk driving conviction) took John’s life and those of the two other passengers in his car. People close to me have received even worse calls “Your father is dead, a drunk driver cross the center line and killed him”, “This is the state highway patrol, I am sorry to tell you that your daughter and grandaughter are dead”. Dozens of calls like this are received by horrified people every day in our country.

Is this a tragedy? In the common usage of the word tragedy as something very sad, of course it is. But if we think of tragedy as the Ancient Greeks did — something that was unavoidable — drink driving deaths aren’t a tragedy but an outrage. We have a technology that has been convincingly shown to reduce drunk driving deaths, but most states are not using it. It’s called 24/7 Sobriety and it not only reduces intoxicated driving, but domestic violence and imprisonment too.

The details of this remarkably simple, effective program are in my article at Wall Street Journal.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.