Car Culture and Drunk Driving — They Go Together

Drinking and driving laws vary from state to state, but in Wisconsin, it’s not until your fifth offense that you’re charged with a felony for drunk driving. That’s an awful lot of leeway for a behavior that so often leads to serious bodily harm.

But as Urban Milwaukee points out, it’s not just the law on DUI that needs to change. The supremacy of the driving culture plays a key role in encouraging offenders:

2786277723_b708ca030e.jpgPhoto by cobalt123 via Flickr.

So let’s start with lowering when a drunk driving offense becomes a felony, but understand the problem is that people make what at the time seems like a rational choice to drive, prior to what clearly is an irrational choice to drive drunk.

Point being that part of the drunk driving discussion that is always left out, is our driving culture. The State of Wisconsin is in the middle of spending $6 billion on freeway expansion in Southeast Wisconsin, while at the same time mass transit service in Southeast Wisconsin has seen budget cuts, service reductions, and any attempt to improve access or service is fought and often blocked. Knowing full well that customers will be living the High Life while attending Summerfest, State Fair, and a game at Miller Park, we still surround them with massive surface parking lots. The limiting of transportation options and prioritizing others furthers the cultural belief that driving is the only option, and that somehow other transportation methods are a challenge to one’s freedom.

More from around the network: Cyclelicious has the news on a new Missouri law that permits cyclists to roll through some red lights after stopping. Let’s Go Ride a Bike confesses that sometimes, she takes the sidewalk. And KC Bike.Info reports that the Kansas City Star has endorsed bicycle infrastructure improvements as one of the most effective uses of stimulus funds.

  • One of the most direct links between driving and drinking is television. One ad showing the joy and bonhomie of drinking beer is followed by another extolling the exhilaration of aggressive driving in either natural or urban environments. Much as I love beer, I hope both go the way of cigarette ads — off the air.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Perhaps MADD got it wrong, and the driving age should have been raised to 21 rather than the drinking age. It wasn’t, because driving was (is) seen as a necessity and an inevitability.

  • I \v/ NY

    of course madd got it wrong, they want to recriminalize alcohol

    as for drinking and driving, who said drinking was the bad one

  • Moser

    Check out death penalty in China for drunk driver causing fatality:

  • Jason A

    I find much of MADD’s efforts to be uselss and unhelpful – their anti-drinking hectoring really rubs me the wrong way… All that energy spent on demonizing alcohol, and absoluting *nothing* on promoting transit or walkable urbanism .

    It’s not a terribly constructive way to reduce drunk driving.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Reminds me of a comment made a bartender up in Kingsbridge, Bronx, where I lived after college, when I nursed that second beer a little too long. “Whats-a-matter? You afraid to drink and walk?”

  • Glenn

    I have a few pet policy solutions for public health issues and this is one of my favorites: I think at age 16 kids should be offered a choice for a five year driving license or a five year drinking license. Kids out in the suburbs would probably pick the driving, kids in the city would probably pick the drinking. Either way, you get rid of a lot of the potential for drinking and driving. Think of all the designated drivers teenagers would have…

  • Ian Turner

    Glenn, presumably driving teens would have their friend buy them liquor, no?

  • Glenn

    Not if they want to keep their driver’s license. Think about it – a cop could stop a drunk kid, ask for their license as proof of their “eligibility to drink” and revoke their driving license if they have one.

    Ok, now my other pet policy prescription: If you ever want an organ donation, you have to be willing to give up your own in case of your untimely death.

  • Faith

    The German driving age is 18 and the drinking age is 16. Then again, driving in Germany is much less necessary than here. Some of my German friends couldn’t believe that I had my own car at age 16 and drove it everywhere (through American suburbs).

  • Ian Turner


    Couldn’t we have that penalty for drunk driving without the dual-licensng scheme?

  • David Holzman

    I think at this point cyclists need to worry more about people driving and text messaging, or otherwise fooling with electronics than drunk driving. I’m not saying we shouldn’t worry about drunk driving, but I don’t cycle at night, and I especially don’t cycle friday and saturday nights anymore, when one is most likely to encounter drunks, but people text at any hour.


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