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Comments

sean mcdaniel

oh man i don't know about the cell phone stuff...what's the difference between a call and turning around to talk to someone in the back seat or looking at the person next you during a conversation?

as for the drunk driving...the limits will only drop so far...MADD is strong nonprofit, but the alcohol industry is stronger (and profitable)...and 9 out 10 times, money talks louder.

John Morris

Sam,

Same with me, I like bar districts or at least ones with a lot of bars. I also think have an agenda that is pretty extreeme. What are the statistics on drunk drivig relative to other countries? We are not the number 1 booze country but for dwi it,s another story.

sean mcdaniel

well,JM, we're one of the most car-centric society's...so where do you think we'll fit on that DUI scale? although, N. mexico has either the highest DUI arrest and fatality rate (not actual numbers) for the one of the country's most sparse populations...the reason...alcoholism is rampant among the native americans...you know, those people who missed out the western hemisphere Indian miracle.

sam, you talk about drunk driving through a school zone at three p.m. and a country road at 2 a.m., the truth is, that rural night time drive is where a good number of drunk driving crashes and deaths happen. you know, the 18 year old who lost control of the pick up truck on the bend just before that big oak tree he slammed into. country roads are killers...drunk or sober...anytime of the day. you're safer on an interstate, period.

again and again and again...not driving when you're drunk is a personal responsibility...like not keeping a loaded pistol on the kitchen table where the 2 year old might get it. Guns aren't necessarily bad (let's not get into assault style weapons) neither are alcohol or cars. But all of them are capable of leading to great damage when used improperly or unwisely.

if you're too fucking drunk to drive, just don't do it. how much simpler can that get?

Sam M

I know a lot of people killed driving drunk on old country roads.

My reasoning for a different punishment standard is that these people typically kill themselves. Not innocent bystanders. And as far as I can tell, that's who the laws are intended to protect.

Sure, to some extent we hope that severe punishment will cut down on self-inflicted casualties. But let's be honest: If there were a way to ensure that only the drunk driver got killed, drunk driving would probably be legal. People support the laws to protect themselves and their children, not the guy who had too many at the bar.

And as to your last comment about it being simple: I agree. It is simple. In the same way that losing weight and stopping smoking is simple. But for some people--for some reason--it's nearly impossible. When I was in Richmond, there was a really cool service run by people who had family members killed in DUI accidents. These people would go to bars in tandem and offer to drive drunk people home--in the drunk's own car, no less, so they would not have to worry about morning retrieval. The "teammate" would follow to retrieve the first volunteer and come back to the bar.

I never saw someone accept the service. But I did see people stumble right past them, refuse, and drive off into the night.

I know people who get blitzed and drive two blocks to their house. Even if they know state troopers are on the prowl.

This, I think, goes back to our original discussion about Americans and their cars: There is a profound connection going on here. One that goes beyond economics and politics. And policies aimed at "rational" pressure points such as cost have a hard time overcoming that.

For instance, I think that the current DUI penalites are extremely high, and getting higher all the time. But ultimately that's not what keeps the people I know from driving drunk. It's the social stigma.

Which was of course part of the MADD campaign. And in my mind the most successful part.

But that's not the kind of thing that you can "legislate." Legislation can help. In fact, it can be THE crucial element in changing the way people live. But even then, it takes a generation.

I know that people my dad's age still resist the notion that they can't drive. At least it's more prevalent than people my age.

I suspect that's because men that age have a different relationship with their cars than mine does.

But what the hell do I know?

sean mcdaniel

to lighten up the mood...

when my oldest son was in the second grade, a teacher talked to the class about the dangers of drinking and driving...when the teacher asked if the students had anything to say...my son said, "my dad never drives drunk. he catches the bus."

Amos the Poker Cat

Here is a comparision of the old and new PA DUI laws. The old law you were either DUI (>=0.10%) or not. The February 1, 2004 law has three levels 1) a blood alcohol content of .08 to .099%, 2) .10 to .159%, and 3) .16% or higher. Alot of states set the higher level between 0.15 and 0.20. WI has three higher levels: .17, .20, .26.

According to this BAC calc, If you are 180lbs, and have 4.75 beers (12 oz) totalling 57 ozs of 4% alcohol in 1 hour, then you hit 0.08. Me, I am going to have to be drinking a long, long, long time before I hit 0.08. I usually end up getting bored first.

Amos the Poker Cat

Here are two other fun facts about the PA DUI laws.

Pennsylvania is one of a few states that has a "per se" law related to driving under the influence of drugs. This means that if a Pennsylvania DUI / DAI arrestee has any measurable amount of specified drugs in their system, they will be punished as if they were at the highest alcohol levels.

Yow!

Pennsylvania does allow for jury trials, but not on "ungraded misdemeanors." This means that you are not allowed a jury trial on a Pennsylvania DUI / DAI case unless it is a second offense with a BAC of .16% or higher (or a refusal), or a third offense DUI or DAI.

Really?! No trial by jury?

sean mcdaniel

well amos, it would be fine if most people got bored before they got drunk and got behind the wheel of a car.

again and again, the answer is that if you think you might not slip under the legal limits, just don't drive. how easy can that be?

again, driving is a privilege in pennsylvania. just as the state requires seat belt use and baby seats, the DUI laws are PA's rule for driving here. sometimes the laws can be overbearing of inconsistent (for instance, why do i have to buckle up but motorcyclist don't have to wear helmets?), but they are the rules. by the way, i'd like to hear one argument about why drinking and driving is okay? if you have kids (if you don't, play along) would you want their bus driver to drink four beers before bringing them home from school? Do you want the truck driver in the 40-foot trailer barreling down the interstate at 80 mph to be fueled by jack daniels? as i said, let's hear the pros about drinking and driving...and four beers in an hour might not be a lot if you're staying at the bar...but if you're driving home after that, it's going to affect most people.

as i said, let's hear the plus side of DUI.

Sam M

I think you would be hard pressed to find someone to an argument in favor of drunk driving. But I do think that there is a case to be made for reasonable rules. The danger in Sean's argument, I think, is that basically amounts to, "those are the rules, so stop complaining." But I think it is pretty clear that laws can be bad laws. And that punishments can be out of whack with justice. Or that there might be unintended consequences that end up making things worse. (See rules about underage drinking.)

Is that the case with DUI? I don't know. But it could be getting close. For instance, does it really make sense to give someone who took one hit off a joint the same punishment as someone who is five times the legal limit established for booze? I don't think so.

You could just say, "He shouldn't have driven, so there." But I think that sidesteps the question. It replaces "the way things are" in a conversation about "the way things should be." I think I could construct a scenario in whch everyone would agree that the punishment was far beyond anything justified, right? I mean, if we started talking about torture, etc.

No, that's not where we are. But it proves it is worth having a discussion about punishment scenarios. And that is an important conversation to have. And it is important to be able to have it without calling people who want to have it "pro drunk driving."

And at the risk of calling all sorts of hell downupon myself--I'll go out on a limb:

As a society that allows drinking--and one that in fact conducts a good bit of its business and pleasure in scenarios that involve drinking--I do think that it is somewhat foolish to construct a zero-tolerance policy.

This does not mean that I think slugging down a case of beer at the bar and careening home is a good thing to do. Nor that we should tolerate it.

But should you be allowed to have a few beers at bowling night? Not getting bombed. But you know, a few beers? I think so. Because I think that bowling night--and things like it--are good for society. And I don't think that level of drinking brings serious impairment. Are people going to push the limit? Hell yes. And should we nail them for it? Yep.

Can you have a few beers on bolwing night now? I think so. I'm just not sure for how much longer. Because counting on American society to make reasonable laws about public safety--especially when drugs and booze are involved--is a tough way to make a living. And the fact that there are such diffferent standards for pot and booze proves my point, I think. Because that is neither consistent nor reasonable.

Again, You can fall back on, "Just don't do it." Which is good advice for teenagers. But it doesn't do much as policy discussion.

And remember, I coming at this as a guy who doesn't drink and drive. So it's not like I have a bowling night that I am all worried about. Rather, I am just a "zero-tolerance" skeptic. And I see lots of things heading in that direction.

Mark

Sam,

Even though you're addressing the issue of drunk driving, I don't think the thread started there:

"I am for The New Urbanism if it allows you to stumble home from a bar. Against it if not. Period. If I were an urban planner, I would design a paradise and call it Stumbletown."

Perhaps we shouldn't depend on the new urbanists, but rely on our own homebuying/renting decisions to put us within walking distance of a bar or two.

"Yes, dear, this place has nice light, but I'd have to drive home from the bar. You wouldn't want that, would you?"

By the way, there is a bus stop right outside Summerset.

For those of you looking for a bowling night, drop me a line.

sean mcdaniel

good point, you want to drink, buy a home on southside. chances are you want have to stumble home more than 90 feet to your front door. now if i can only find a decent neighborhood for the kids with a gentleman's club around the corner.

Amos the Poker Cat

Sean, you are getting as bad as JM. You take things way too seriously.

Was 0.10% too low? Probably not. Is reducing it to 0.08% going to make any difference? Maybe, but I think it will be hard to measure. Will the change effect most people? I doubt it.

The numbers for me personally are, I have to drink 8 and 2/3 12oz beers (104 ozs) in one hour to hit 0.08. Seriously, I am not a cheap date. That is one beer ever seven minutes. Under the old law in would be possible for me to drink 126 ozs, or ten and a half 12 oz beers before I hit 0.10% BAC in an hour.

Do I think I am typical? Hell, no. Not unless you are very large hairy tattoed and have too much external scar tissue.

Mark

Area gentlemen's clubs can be found here: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=adult+entertainment+pittsburgh

That is, if you're not talking about the gentlemen's clubs with paneled walls, leather armchairs, and hushed undertones.

As you can see there aren't that many gentlemen's clubs in the area. I'd estimate one for every 100,000 people. To have everybody -- or at least a considerable portion of adult males -- living around the corner from a gentlemen's club means an inconceivably dense population. Only the most visionary of urban planners could come up with a viable solution for providing sustainable, walkable, convenient, and discreet bawdy entertainment.

A distributed solution would be to provide households with an adequate number of poles and large feathered fans. Doing so might require major subsidies, subsidies provided, perhaps, through a tax on pink champagne. Many might oppose such a tax, but government intervention may be necessary to retain Pittsburgh's major league status.

Or, we could all get as big as Amos and drink and drive where we wanted.

Sam M

As is so often the case, technology has saved us all. Who needs a gentleman's club around the corner when you have high-speed Internet?

Amos the Poker Cat

The cost of drinks in a bar, and the cost of gasoline, are what limit my drinking and driving. I wonder what gin and tonic costs by the gallon? $5/6oz. $106.67/gal. Yow. Gas is the cheap part.

That internet thing also works for gambling, and downloading free rock and roll. All we need is the internet delivered drugs and there no need to leave the house, suburban, or city.

John Morris

As far as the "gentleman's club" stuff. A lot of guys are still pretty shy about this stuff and also the porn so this stuff tends to migrate away from residential areas. A business district that empties out at night or a commercial streatch on a busy road are two favorite spots for stuff like that. That downtown Pittsburgh would have become the home of a thriving porn industry makes sense.

sippy glass

The Congress for the New Urbanism lists the popsicle test: "An eight-year-old in the neighborhood should be able to bike to a store to buy a popsicle, without having to battle highway-size streets and freeway-speed traffic." But I like the stumble-home test. Maybe they can be combined -- the frozen margarita test?

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