DWI/DUI: Socially and Legally Unacceptable Crimes

Before Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) and other groups raised our consciousness in the early 80s, drunken driving was common and accepted behavior.

Dean Martin and many others took pride in the quantity and frequency of their alcohol consumption. Alcohol abuse and drunk driving were the subjects of jokes, knowing winks, and general acceptance.

Decades ago, drunk driving was also taken lightly by law enforcement officials and the courts. Violators were typically given warnings and light fines. If well known or important in the community, they were sometimes driven home by the police. Even repeat offenders involved in serious accidents often escaped serious punishment.

People typically thought little of receiving a citation for drunken driving. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Ted Kennedy and many other politicians, celebrities, business leaders, and “shakers and movers” of society were among the millions of citizens cited for drunk driving. And during much of that period, the maximum legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was about twice as high as it is today.

Fortunately, drunk driving is now socially unacceptable and those convicted of DWI/DUI face severe penalties including high fines, license revocation, vehicle impoundment, imprisonment, and a number of other sanctions.

So how should we react to the fact that a person received a citation for DWI 30, 40 or more years ago? Speaking about such people, MADD leader Toni Logan, correctly points out that "They are of a generation when cocktail parties were woven into the fabric of our social lives," She explains that "Smoking and drinking were glamorized then. Remember cocktail hour... women had entire wardrobes with matching shoes." And "nobody thought much about getting behind the wheel after a party. There was no such thing as a designated driver." Because of widespread information today about safety risks “we've adjusted attitudes accordingly." 1

Drunken driving is clearly no longer a socially acceptable crime.  And we’re all safer because of that fact.


  • 1. Take Bush DUI in Context, MADD Says: Attitudes have Changed Since the 1970’s. Alcoholism/Substance Abuse. About.Com (http://alcoholism.about.com/od/issues/l/aa001104a.htm)


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Filed Under: Driving