Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Unfortunate Tragedy of Drinking and Driving

"If drinking and driving is illegal, then why do bars have parking lots?"
Drinking and driving is an epidemic plaguing both the country and local municipalities within DFW as well, no doubt. We like to laugh at the pathetic individuals caught on police cruiser cam miserably (or hysterically) trying to convince the arresting officer of their sobriety and unflinching motor skills. But, what is the real issue and how do they end up there?
I have no idea what this means other than a whole lotta traffic accidents are alcohol related.

People partake in alcohol for a variety of reasons, none of which are particularly important nor revelatory.

People consumed alcohol even when it was illegal during prohibition.

People still drink and drive despite stiffer and more crippling consequences than ever (which one could argue that since they are largely financial - are particularly and unfairly regressive in that it punishes the poor moreso than the wealthy).

The reason is our environment. We HAVE to live by cars. Until the recent emergence of local transit and walkable portions of uptown and downtown Dallas there were no other options for liquid revelry.

This contextually coerced outcome has a particularly ironic history. Once upon a time it was perfectly legal to drink and drive in Dallas. A driver could amicably tip his open beer can at a passing police officer if he felt so compelled. Keep in mind that I am not feeling particularly nostalgic for this time period or the policy that allowed such behavior. Obviously, society deemed the dangers enough to prohibit drinking while driving. But this prohibition has also cruelly failed society. Why?

The reason is that once upon a time, in a land not so ideologically far away, the Federal government mandated that Dallas make drinking and driving illegal in order to "enter the 20th century." The strings attached to the purse of promised futurism came in the form of Federal Highway Dollars. Want the short-term bump in economic development of new highway construction (and the long-term bankruptcy)? Dallas must ban drinking and driving.

Instead of drunk on fermented beverages, we became drunk on federal cash money; the allusion of economic development, our new and favored chemical pathogen. The result was more and more highways making driving a necessity for all and created bars like this:

I don't mean to unfairly single out this particularly bar, but it was the first that came to mind. Others like all of Belt Line Road in Addison, TX are strictly drive-to drinking establishments. If we are going to drink, our zoning and transportation policies (and funding) create unwalkable places and effectively turn all citizens into a nation of drunk drivers rationalizing "oh, I'm not that bad," as bars spread out to accommodate a population increasingly dispersed by the repellent force of intra-city highways.

Want to stop the carnage of drinking and driving? Demand walkable communities and fight against road widenings, new highways, or any vehicular capacity expansions.