What is accidental about Drunk Driving

As we get closer to the Holidays I thought about several things I could write about, most of them lighter and more expected at the Holiday season. Then I heard one of our patients talking about how hard this time of year is for her. The reason? 6 years ago her daughter and 3 year old granddaughter were killed by a drunk driver. 

That is when I knew what I wanted to write about. 

When a drunk driver kills someone or injures someone we call it a drunk driving accident. But what is accidental about it? Someone chose to drink and then chose to get behind the wheel of a deadly weapon with impaired motor skills and judgment. That doesn’t seem like an accident to me. Intentional endangerment would be a better term.

Drunks don’t “accidentally” get behind the wheel. They choose to. 

I think that is what we don’t think about enough. That person chose to engage in an activity that put others at risk. They do this with no thought for the lives they can destroy. There is no thought for the consequences period. 

Drunk driving is one of the most selfish things anyone can do. 

It is an area of law where I think as a country we are too lax in our penalties and punishments. 

This is a link to the MADD website where they list what the possible sentencing for a drunk driver who kills someone can be. Updated last in 2011


I would draw specific attention to Oklahoma – 0 to 1 year  Negligent Homicide: Not more than 1 year in the county jail and/or not less than $100 or more than $1,000. OK ST TI 47 § 11 903.

 The variance in amount of time someone who chose to endanger others can be sentenced to serve is astounding. 

I say again this is not an accidental death. 

How do we get people to actually stop drinking and driving? Showing graphic scenes of the aftermath hasn’t stopped it. Our laws are a joke, and obviously haven’t stopped it. I think it comes down to us as individuals and a community. 

If you see someone who shouldn’t be driving – stop them. If you know them take their keys. If you are at a bar or restaurant tell the manager and if they won’t do something call the cops. 

If you are having a party ask a couple of people to be the sober drivers for others or make arrangements for a taxi to be available. 

When you see someone post on Facebook that they don’t know how they got home last night because they were so drunk – don’t like the post or comment “LOL” or “been there”. Tell that person how irresponsible that is. And yes – I have seen exactly that multiple times. 

If this sounds like public shaming that is because that is what I am suggesting.

Until we as a society choose to make it unacceptable on any level for everyone – it will not stop. 

We are all very quick when someone is killed to say no one should drive drunk and to wonder how anyone could have let that person leave the bar/party/event/house where they got drunk. But then don’t stop someone when we have the opportunity to help prevent it. 

You see the interviews where someone says “they were pretty drunk when they left” – so why did you let them leave? 

There is a time to mind your own business and there is a time to live up to your civic responsibilities as a member of a community. More importantly there is a time to do what is right. Keeping someone from driving drunk is the right thing to do. Period. 

Will it possibly be awkward – yes. Will someone get mad at you – yes. But isn’t it better to have someone annoyed or mad at you for taking away their keys than to see that person in jail dealing with having taken a life? 

Are there people who drink at home, alone and then drive – yes. But not being able to stop everyone is no excuse for not stopping those you can. 

Is this the happy upbeat message most expect leading up to the holidays – no. But if one person that reads this takes it to heart and stops one person from driving drunk or chooses not to drive drunk themselves then it was worth it. 

For my part – I will always pick a friend up. Time doesn’t matter. And I have taken keys and pissed off friends. I will continue to do so. 

So have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, Christmas and rest of your life.