In 1982, the year after we graduated college, 26,173 Americans died in drunk-driving accidents — 60 percent of all automobile deaths that year, in a population of some 231 million souls.
A generation later — in 2010 — the drunk-driver death toll was down to 10,228, or 31 percent of the total carnage. In a nation that had swelled to 308 million.
Also in 1982, 32,957 Americans died from firearms, the vast majority homicides and suicides. By 2009, that had plunged to — well, 31,347. Certainly a reduction if you grade on the population curve, but not a two-thirds reduction.
We chose the starting date for a few reasons.
One, being just out of college, we have strong memories of driving when we shouldn’t have — and while not being stupid about it, still, not worrying all that much. The legal trouble it would have caused you then doesn’t compare to the shit you can find yourself in now.
Two, Mothers Against Drunk Driving was formed in 1980.
And three, James Brady was shot in 1981, when a fucking idiot took aim at Ronald Reagan.
MADD symbolizes what our nation can do when it sets to address a serious problem — especially one that involves one of our most beloved pasttimes. Nobody wanted a return to Prohibition, but we could come to some agreement that stricter boundaries were required. Our God-given right to get Shitfaced Drunk would not be infringed, but Hell be upon you if you’re irresponsible about it.
And James Brady — well, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is still out there, but you only hear from them when a reporter needs a quote to contrast with the NRA regarding the latest Senseless Tragedy That Must Not Be Politicized.
Can we do more to reduce drunk-driving deaths? Sure we can. Just like we have been. Consistently. Over three decades.
And can we do more to reduce firearms deaths? Like, maybe, anything? Besides producing municipal Duck & Cover videos? Because that’s what we, as a nation, have been reduced to.