Archive for April, 2008

Ignition interlocks up for consideration in Vermont

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Vermont lawmakers are considering adding mandatory ignition interlocks to the possible punishments for individuals convicted of DUI. The Burlington Free Press reported today that the legislature would be studying the use of the devices in other states and may consider legislation in the next session, which begins in early 2009.  This discussion comes in response to the tragic death of 18 year-old Nick Fournier who was killed when a thrice convicted drunk driver slammed into his vehicle.  The man responsible for the accident is 33 and had consumed eight or nine beers at a nearby bar before getting in his brother’s car and driving the wrong way down the interstate.

In this case, the use of an ignition interlock may have saved a life.  If the convicted drunk driver had had an ignition interlock in his vehicle, he would have been unable to even start it that night. The devices work simply and effectively by blocking the ignition if the driver’s BAC is over an established limit.   While most states make use of ignition interlocks in DUI sentencing, only a few require it for first time DUI offenders.  In their Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, MADD strongly supports state-level legislation that would make installation of ignition interlocks mandatory for all DUI convictions.

Choose Responsibility strongly supports ignition interlocks.  Research has shown that drunk drivers are 60 percent less likely to reoffend if they have been ordered to install an interlock as part of their sentence, and also that 65 percent of the public supports interlocks for first time offenders.  That proportion jumps to 85 percent when considering repeat offenders. Unlike Legal Age 21, ignition interlocks present a specific and tailored solution to dealing with the scourge of drunken driving.  

Work with [CR] this summer!

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Choose Responsibility Summer Internship Program

Looking for an engaging and hands-on summer internship? Interested in public policy, education, and social change? Want to work with a dynamic new non-profit organization?

Choose Responsibility is a new non-profit organization based whose mission is promote general public awareness of the dangers of excessive and reckless alcohol consumption by young adults through a program of research, publication, education, and related activities seeking to engage young people, their parents and public officials in serious deliberation on the role of alcohol in American culture. We seek to engage American society in a debate over the successes of the 21 year-old drinking age, and to offer policy alternatives. In a short time and with limited resources, Choose Responsibility has succeeded in drawing national attention to the once-settled question of the drinking age. Through articles in major publications like Newsweek, The Washington Post, USA Today, PARADE Magazine, and many others around the country, Choose Responsibility, has stirred debate about the drinking age and reality-based alcohol education.

We are looking for motivated and enthusiastic individuals who are committed to Choose Responsibility’s mission and eager to contribute their skills and energy to the organization. Positions available include office and web assistant, research assistant, and educational liaison. All positions are paid and will be based in our home office in Middlebury, VT. Please contact Grace Kronenberg for detailed job descriptions and information on how to apply.

Choose Responsibility
P.O. Box 507
Middlebury, VT 05753
www.chooseresponsibility.org

Lightner Controversy

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

On a Fox News panel on Monday April 7, Candy Lightner, Founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, shared her belief that young adults “don’t think for themselves.” Lightner used this as a justification for why the drinking age should not coincide with the age of enlistment. Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have heard members of the MADD network stereotyping young adults as immature. The same argument has been put forth by several of Lightner’s colleagues, including a 19 year-old M.I.T student (who, interestingly, is considered mature enough to sit on the Board of a large national organization), as well as MADD representatives on local panels.

The moment, naturally, was captured by YouTube,  and we have provided a rough transcript below.

“…That’s exactly why the draft age is 18…because these kids are malleable. They’ll follow the leader. They don’t think for themselves. And they are the last ones that I want to say, here’s a gun and here’s a beer…they are not adults.”

“New Beer’s Eve”

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Happy “New Beer’s Eve!” (Well, a bit belated).  75 years ago yesterday, April 7, beer started flowing legally in America for the first time in 14 years. Under the 18th Amendment and Prohibition, all “alcoholic” and “intoxicating” beverages — defined by the Volstead Act as substances containing more than 0.5% alcohol — were banned.  While the amendment to repeal Prohibition was brewing before Franklin D. Roosevelt stepped into office, ratification was still months away, and the president decided that it was time to take an important first-step towards repeal. The Cullen-Harrison Act raised the threshold of alcohol “intoxication” from 0.5% to 3.2%, thereby permitting the sale and consumption of 3.2% beer — the only alcoholic drink permitted for the next 8 months. 

 Beyond representing a victory of “wets” over “drys,” the legalization of 3.2% beer helped moderate what had become an excessive and reckless use of alcohol by the American public under Prohibition. Bathtub gin in underground speakeasies was replaced by beer in public gatherings, and a covert and corrupt production network by a regulated industry offering economic and employment benefits.  The result? An era of greater responsibility and a healthier national attitude towards alcohol.

Sound familiar? We have a lot to learn from 3.2% beer today, as 18 to 20 year-olds face a modern-day prohibition. Surely, the majority of them continue to drink, but their behavior, like that of their counterparts under the 18th Amendment, has become reckless, excessive, and geared towards the product that is most readily accessible and potent to them — hard liquor.  The act of “pre-gaming” with shots of vodka in basements or dorm rooms has become the norm, as young adults no longer have access to public gatherings where alcohol is served in moderation. Parents and educators lose their capacity to educate young adults about the risks and rewards of drinking, and as a result, the instructor role has been transferred to fraternity brothers and college roommates — hardly pillars of moderation. Further, as in the 1920s and 1930s, enforcement is lax, helping to breed disrespect for law.

 Americans in the 1930s realized that laws must reflect reality, and that safety and moderation are more important than lofty yet unattainable social experiments. It is for this realization that we celebrate April 7, 1933 and continue to work to find our own equivalent middle ground of 3.2% beer.

 Interested in learning more? Try these.

Los Angeles Times

NPR

Happy Alcohol Awareness Month

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and organizations across the nation are focusing on alcohol and its many implications for our society. Pertinently, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), a government agency that deals with issues related to alcohol and underage drinking, is hosting a series of 1,600 town hall-style meetings across the country this week and next. These meetings are informal get-togethers whose goal is to bring together people from various roles within a community—parents, teens, law enforcement, educators, elected officials—to discuss and raise awareness of underage drinking.

We encourage you to attend a meeting near you, and to participate in the discussion. [CR] volunteer Beau Weston attended a meeting in Danville, KY where he brought up Choose Responsibility’s concept of alcohol education and licensing. “The drinking license idea was clearly new to most people there,” said Weston, “but only one was set against it, and most were willing to give it a hearing.” Check here for a list of meetings in your state, and find one to attend in your area. Email Grace Kronenberg at [CR] if you have questions about what to say!