National Margarita Day

A national holiday to celebrate tequila? What a spectacularly pointless and possibly dangerous idea.

I know I can seem a bit uptight. No gifting cheap chocolate on Valentine’s Day. No grilling meat on your backyard barbecue. No eating corn.

It’s not that I’m immune to the concept of fun. (Here are a few margarita recipes from the Los Angeles Times test kitchen that I wouldn’t mind trying at home. Woohoo.) I just don’t like to have a good time at other people’s expense. And I really wish more people agreed with me.

Top on my list of grievances is drunk driving. There’s absolutely no excuse for endangering innocent lives. Ever. It’s selfish and reckless, and the destruction goes way beyond just those on the road.

If you know that you’re going to be drinking, you should have the foresight to know that you’ll need a sober driver. And if you end up going overboard, cabs are always just a call away. It’s pretty simple. At least it is to someone who hasn’t been drinking.

DUI checkpoints have been designed to get drunk drivers off the road, but they’re easy to avoid. And, anyway, it’s possible DUIs don’t go far enough.

In a 2010 opinion article in the independent online magazine Smile Politely, Seth Fein argued that drunk driving was “one of the saddest, most destructive and completely underpunished crimes in the world.” His suggestion? It was harsh, but it could put a real dent in the problem.

Those caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point of direct impairment go to jail for one year, straight from the scene of the crime, no debate. Refusing blood or a breathalyzer test would result in an admission of guilt (as it is now). Fancy lawyers would only be able to represent clients in a basic way, and there would be no song and dance with the DA behind the curtain. There would be no negotiating. The guilty person would be placed in the county correctional facility. If they were truly under the influence, they would show up in court, listen to a polite speech, the gavel would bang, they would be taken away and not released for one year.

I like it. Of course I would.

Inebriated drivers aren’t the only dangerous ones on the road, though. If we really want to curb reckless drivers, we’d punish all hazardous drivers equally. That’s what Radley Balko argues in a 2011 opinion article on Opposing Views. He argues:

If our ultimate goals are to reduce driver impairment and maximize highway safety, we should be punishing reckless driving more consistently. It shouldn’t matter if it’s caused by alcohol, sleep deprivation, prescription medication, text messaging or road rage. If lawmakers want to stick it to dangerous drivers who threaten everyone else on the road, they can dial up the civil and criminal liability for reckless driving, especially in cases that result in injury or property damage.

Doing away with the specific charge of drunk driving sounds radical at first blush, but it would put the focus back on behavior, where it belongs.

I’ll say cheers to that.