As it is now, so it has always been: the holidays are a dangerous time of year on the roads. People were always aware of it, though, as evidenced by this PSA by the National Foundation for Highway Safety, a Connecticut-based group that seems to have disappeared or been absorbed into another body. (Hat tip to Yesterday Television)
Santa looks pretty desperate, and he should have been. If this was the early 60s – hard to pin it down – road deaths would have been approaching a thousand a week, and more than half of those would have been alcohol-related. There was still public resistance to treating drunk driving as a serious crime. Ignition interlocks had not been invented, and it was still customary to evade drunk driving charges with the aid of a good lawyer. Often drivers were sent home with a warning to “sleep it off.”
PSAs have gotten more sophisticated since this message was made. So have laws and enforcement strategies. 28 states now mandate ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses – including first offenses – and more are signing on every year. Licenses are suspended automatically upon arrest in many states, and vehicles are sometimes impounded – measures that protect innocent lives.
So please remember: if our public safety PSAs don’t look anything like they did 50 years ago, our roads still do. There are people out there who have been out celebrating with friends, and who haven’t had the good sense to get a taxi home. As Santa said, they “fool themselves into thinking that drinking does not affect their driving.”
They’ll run red lights. They’ll swerve out of their lane into oncoming traffic. They’ll fail to stop for pedestrians.
Watch out for them. And if you see someone at a bar, restaurant or party about to join their ranks, stop them. It’s the right way to show the holiday spirit.