Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why is America Awash in Alcohol?

It is an all-too familiar scene here in America- a drunk driver slams into a van killing 5 members of a family. The drunk driver walks away. It happened in Toledo this weekend. A 24-year-old whose blood alcohol was 3 times the legal limit drove the wrong way down an expressway ripping the side off of a van carrying 8 members of a family. [Blade photo]

These stories are rare in Canada and Europe but common here in America. Why do we have a love affair with the bottle? Why do we advertise alcohol on sports programs and why are alcohol decals on NASCAR race cars?

Europe has some of the most strict drunk-driver laws anywhere. There are no second chances in Germany. German law deals harshly with driving under the influence. Violators may lose their license on the first offense and must pay high fines for such an offense.

German youth understand these strict laws and learn these laws well as they apply for driving privileges. Unlike loose American driving-tests, German youth must pass very difficult tests. A German driver’s license costs about $1500-2000, after a minimum of 25-45 hours of professional instruction plus 12 hours of theory, and such a license is good for life. They understand the enormous responsibility of sitting behind the wheel of an automobile.

Here in Ohio, one often sees a yellow license plate with red letters on a car. The owner of the car has been charged with multiple DUI offenses and has served time in jail and paid fines. The loose sentencing by judges seems to indicate how tolerant we Americans are of drunks. Of course, many judges are no doubt 'drinkers' themselves. Note the multiple words we Americans have for alcoholics.

Is our Alcohol problem related to the fact that we Americans view ourselves as self-reliant people, freedom-demanding folks, residents of the land of the free and home of the brave? We crack down on crack but crack open the bottles of booze.

In 2006, an estimated 17,602 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes—an average of one every 30 minutes. These deaths constitute 41 percent of the 42,642 total traffic fatalities. Of these, an estimated 13,470 involved a driver with an illegal BAC (.08 or greater). [link]

Perhaps we Americans are in a constant state of depression. That's something folks will quickly jump all over. Not me! Nobody I hang with! Well, if not, then why is alcohol the most common anti-depressive drug of choice? Go ahead, tell me about that...

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