“Sixty-Five Percent of all Traffic Deaths are Caused by Drunk Drivers.”

A graphically gory TV ad by Citizens Against Legalizing Liquor, a group opposed to the legal sale of wine and distilled spirits in Florida’s Santa Rosa County asserts that “sixty-five percent of all traffic deaths are caused by drunk drivers.” In reality about 13 percent of all traffic deaths are known to involve (much less be caused by) intoxicated drivers.

The anti-alcohol group insists that lifting the prohibition against wine and distilled spirits would lead to more drunken driving. However, it appears that there have been fewer drunken driving arrests in Florida’s Escambia County since it became “wet” in 2001. This isn’t surprising. A study of about 39,000 alcohol-related traffic accidents in wet compared to dry counties in Kentucky found that a higher proportion of dry counties' residents are involved in such crashes. The analysis suggests that residents of dry counties have to drive farther from their homes to consume alcohol, thus increasing impaired driving (DWI/DUI) exposure.

A petition by the Grow Our Local Economy committee has led to a referendum on the issue of legalizing the sale of wine and spirits in the county.

The owner of an Italian restaurant says that customers often walk out when they learn that they can’t order a drink with their meals. He explains that people want wine with Italian food and that he loses about ten tables a week because of the county’s prohibition. Diners can obtain full service at restaurants a few miles away in neighboring counties. Without the ability to serve alcohol, his business is prevented from becoming a more profitable upscale restaurant.

But to many opponents of alcohol it’s a matter of religion. The Rev. David Spencer, a Southern Baptist Minister and vocal supporter of continuing the prohibition, considers alcohol and its consumption immoral.

The religious leader is worried over the outcome of the referendum because of major demographic changes since the last referendum in 1993. Over the last dozen years the county has grown about 49 percent. Many of the new residents are from outside the Bible Belt. Because of their religion, income and social status they may be more likely to oppose the prohibition.

Rev. Spencer says he is praying that the prohibition against the sale of wine and liquor will remain in force.


  • Kaczor, Bill. Florida county to decide on alcohol. Washington Post, August 17, 2005; Santa Rosa voters to decide whether to stay “damp” or go “wet.” Gadsden Times, August 17, 2005; Cooper, Louis. “Gloves of” in anti-liquor fight: Commercials link DUI deaths, vices to hard liquor sales. Pensacola News Journal, August 16, 2005; Gary, S.L.S., et al. Consideration of driver home county prohibition and alcohol-related vehicle crashes. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2003, 35(5), 641-648.

Filed Under: Drinking and Driving