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Drunk Driver Outrage Misses the Main Point

January 03, 1987

All of the theorizing and outrage about the wrong-way freeway drunk driver misses the main point, in my opinion.

Drunk drivers are alcoholics. Repeat offenders are so near 100% alcoholics the margin isn't worth considering. They drive drunk because alcoholics do everything drunk, or at least impaired, as long as they continue to drink. In their blurred, chronically drugged minds, does anyone seriously think they can make high-minded moral decisions about not killing people on the highways?

So why the patronizing patsying silliness of the California SB 38 program that attempts to educate offenders out of their wicked ways?

Education doesn't work on alcoholism. Anyone who knows anything at all about it knows that. It can create a receptive climate for the alcoholic to realize that his problem is forever unmanageable, but an addiction is far beyond education. Thus the California SB 38 program is a farce.

I make these observations as a graduate of that program myself, (who quit drinking completely nearly seven years ago, after my last driving under the influence arrest). The program I graduated from, possibly one of the weaker ones (but that remains to be proved), was conducted by educational amateurs whose only practical curriculum was "Go to AA." Even that might work if all SB 38 students actually went to Alcoholics Anonymous and stayed permanently after they got there. Of course they don't.

In the meantime there was the reality. I heard fellow students openly admit in class that they were alcoholic and intended to continue drinking, who were later graduated from the program with their driving privileges returned.

I wrote to Candy Lightner, then president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, about SB 38 five years ago. She rattled some bureaucrats in Sacramento and the governmental replies began their rounds. We all know about those "governmental replies." Two years ago I reinvestigated via the mails, referring back to my former inquiries. The director of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, Chauncey L. Veatch III, wrote that "State regulations, which were enacted after you completed the course, have corrected several of the problems you mentioned . . . both programs within that area (where I took the course) have been closed and new providers have been contracted to provide the services. Hopefully, with the change in the regulations and new providers, the problems . . . have been corrected."

The solution to saving lives from drunk drivers is to define drunk drivers as alcoholics, which repeat offenders almost always are, and take away their cars. Their CARS, not their licenses, and take them away by any legislative means possible in a democratic country, unti those repeat offenders can absolutely prove that they no longer drink. Alcoholics cannot safely drink.

The reason we have drunk drivers on California's highways is primarily because we're depending on the California educational program SB 38 to keep them off the highways and SB 38 doesn't work on alcoholics. Drivers drive drunk because they're alcoholic. In the words of reformed alcoholic Grace Slick, "Now I think that's real simple."

ROBERT COLE

Barstow

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