Local DWI activist opposes reduction in drunk drivers

A Bernalillo County (New Mexico) program, Safe Ride, offers those who drink too much to drive themselves rides to and from home at no cost out-of-pocket.  Safe Ride is set to receive a $20,000 increase in funding next year, but not if the DWI Resource Center has anything to say about it.

“I have a big problem with that,” said Linda Atkinson with the DWI Resource Center. “The victims we work with and the victims that MADD works with los [sic] their jobs, lose their homes. They lose everything and there’s no pot of money that helps them.”

Atkinson said Safe Ride caters to people who want to drink excessively. She admits the program may reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, but she believes the money could be better spent on enforcement and education.

“I’m sure there are plenty of people that like getting a cab, picking them up and taking them to the bar, but is that really a gap? Is that a need?” said Atkinson. “It’s almost like we created an industry to help take care of these offenders and the victims be damned. And I think that is so wrong”

I was under the impression that an organization like the DWI Resource Center exists to reduce the number of intoxicated or alcohol impaired drivers on the road.  I guess I was severely mistaken. 

She admits that the program will likely fulfill the goal DWIRC strives for by “reducing the social and economic impact of drunk driving in New Mexico through education, public awareness, prevention, and research” (emphasis added) , but opposes it anyway because the cost of the ride does not come directly out of the potential drunk driver’s pocket.  The Safe Ride program significantly aids in DWIRC’s stated goal.  Atkinson actually says she would prefer the money be used on enforcement rather than this proven form of prevention.  Of course, enforcement is only necessary when there are impaired drivers on the road.  Preferring enforcement to a program like this seems counterintuitive.

The Safe Ride program serves to reduce the number of victims by reducing the number of offenders.  Who are the victims to which she is referring?  If the impaired are not driving, they create no victims.  Not only are there no victims; these drinkers are not offenders, they aren’t driving drunk–they called for a ride!  They are actually being responsible by utilizing a program that keeps themselves and others safe.  Of course a program like this caters to people who want to drink excessively, those are precisely the people you want to keep off the road!  Is Atkinson so entrenched in her hatred for people who drink alcohol that she feels she must oppose the program because it doesn’t increase the number of people being locked up for DWI and revoke their driver’s licences?

It is rare that someone is so honest about their feelings on an issue such as this.  Atkinson hates that these people drink and are not out there driving and being arrested.  It’s as if she thinks they are getting away with something.   I realize that organizations like the DWIRC needs drunk drivers.  After all,  people who work for these organizations need drunk drivers in order to stay in business, it’s job security.  The biggest surprise is that Atkinson was so candid about it.  She needs drunk drivers like the battered women organizations need battered women; and cancer societies need cancer.  As much as you’d like to see these things go away, no one likes being out of work.  And they certainly aren’t going to put themselves out of work by solving their problem.  You just don’t hear it said out loud by activists like this very often. 

I’ll wager she’d take it back if she could.  I say give her a Mulligan.

Comments

  1. I am certainly not going to defend her solution to the drinking and driving problem, but I do have a few comments about the program as it stands now.

    I think your take on it is pretty good, but not only does it cater to those who want to drink excessively, it provides an incentive for those who may not drink excessively to do just that! With this incentive to drink, there will be more people intoxicated. Even with the ride home from the county, there can still be other mischief created by these jolly people.

    With such a “safety net” in place, there is less incentive on personal responsibility.

    • Gov — I definitely see what you mean about incentive to over-drink. But would you consider those people who may use the program as a ‘licence’ to over-drink, that those people would already want to over-drink, and having to drive had restrained that? Knowing you have a safe ride home, and need not rely on a designated driver may make you more comfortable to drink a bit more. Would that make a difference in your eyes?

      I hadn’t seen any reports of increased hooliganism since the program’s inception. And I had Googled ‘increaded crime ride share/free ride program’ and other such terms and haven’t turned up anything. This type of program has been in place in other cities for a while, and I am presuming that if increased mischief were occurring, people like Atkinson and other anti-drinking organizations would be decrying them for just that reason. Again, I’m speculating that, but it seems we’d hear about it.

      I think it is irresponsible to get fully intoxicated anyway. You never know when you might need to be of sound mind in case of emergency.

      • I think there are some people who refrain from over drinking because they had to drive. I would have put myself in that category at one point actually. So, I think it would have made a difference to me.

        I hadn’t seen any evidence of increased hooliganism either, but if it were to surface I would not be surprised.

        Had I known this legislation was being implemented, I would have bought stock in Bernalillo County bars. Also, If I were a shareholder in said bars, I would push for even more increased funding for the program.

  2. Terrance H. says:

    I don’t know of anyone who goes to a bar and says, “Oh, I can only have a few because I gotta drive.”

    Seriously. I’m sure some say that, but not in my experience. I’ve heard only older folks say that.

    Not only that, but according to experts, one or two beers means you’re reaction time is diminished, putting you at greater risk for getting into an accident. So, I don’t think over or under drinking is the problem. I think someone just despises those who drink and want them locked up, so opposes this program.

    • I actually ration my drinking when I have to drive. When I have to drive I may drink 4-5 over 2-3 hours and either slow down to 1 an hour and drink a glass of water at the same time in order to get the alcohol out of my system by leaving time.

      But I know what you mean. It really smacks of being frustrated that these people are not getting in trouble.

      “If you want to drink, you should have to drive yourself! And when you do you should have to go to jail!”

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