Drinkers, like smokers, are a large interest group with few advocates. I do what I can in my own small way, but there are a couple of groups on our side. One is the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), which is the trade group of the distilled spirits industry. Another is the American Beverage Institute (ABI), which represents restaurants that serve alcohol.
Sarah Longwell is Managing Director of ABI. Her guest column in last Tuesday's Seattle PI does a great job of refuting some of the mis-information spread by anti-alcohol forces. For example:
Activists exaggerate the number of deaths that occur due to drunken driving because federal statisticians classify a death as "alcohol-releated" if anyone involved has had a drink, even a passenger in one of the vehicles.
The popular claim that "first offenders drive drunk an average of 87 times before they are caught" is based on research that even its authors call "crude."
They don't tell you about research that shows drivers who talk on cell phones, drive drowsy, or travel 7 mph above the speed limit are more dangerous than drivers who responsibly drive after moderate drinking. Instead, the anti-alcohol forces promote "zero tolerance."
Anti-alcohol crusaders, like a lot of activists, become so passionate that they have no problem exaggerating or just plain lying to advance their cause. It's too bad, because they do some good. The heightened awareness of the risks of driving under the influence has generally been a good thing, but much anti-drunk driving legislation and enforcement has lost touch with reality. The well-meaning but overzealous anti-alcohol activists need to be answered. Thanks, Sarah.