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That Drinking Driver: Mindless and Deadly

Last Thursday’s “Life on Wheels” column in The Times, which dealt with drinking drivers, quoted a 32-year-old Costa Mesa man named Jack as saying that “drinking and driving” are wrong, but that he does both routinely and doesn’t intend to stop. He even said he drinks while he drives.

He termed it an “acceptable” risk and justified his deadly practice by claiming that it was “OK . . . because I’m accepting responsibility for what can happen.”

In smug stupidity, he further claimed that he never has been charged with drunk driving and never has had an accident.

That is a frightening attitude, not only because this one irresponsible driver is such a public menace, but because so many others, if not arrogantly and consciously setting themselves above the law, follow the same deadly practice of drinking and driving. And it is just a matter of time before they kill or injure themselves and other innocent motorists unfortunate enough to be in their path.

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That is not idle speculation. According to highway statistics, two out of every five drivers will sooner or later be involved in an alcohol-related crash. It is the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 16 and 24.

Every day in California, seven people are killed by drinking drivers. That is every day. Drinking drivers are responsible for about half of the state’s 5,000 traffic fatalities each year.

California’s law enforcement officers arrest about 400,000 drinking drivers a year. But police can’t get them all, or get to enough of them before they crush more innocent lives.

Statistics don’t mean much to some drinking drivers, until they become one. Police will diligently pursue and courts will strenuously prosecute them. But until rattle-brained drivers like the one quoted last Thursday really accept responsibility for what can happen, everyone on the road is at risk--and there will continue to be a lot of drinking, driving--and dying.

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