Underage Drinking. And MADD-Bashing

TheAgitator.com: Underage Drinking. And MADD-Bashing.: Comments

Middlebury College President John M. McCardell, Jr., in yesterday’s New York Times

To lawmakers: the 21-year-old drinking age is bad social policy and terrible law. It is astonishing that college students have thus far acquiesced in so egregious an abridgment of the age of majority. Unfortunately, this acquiescence has taken the form of binge drinking. Campuses have become, depending on the enthusiasm of local law enforcement, either arms of the law or havens from…

This is a very well put together rant, and expresses my feelings fairly closely.

This fits in with another rant that has always bothered me, that of the 21 drinking age with the troops. It makes little sense to me that an 18 year old can drive a tank, fire artillery, kill for his country and possibly lose his own life, but demon rum must not pass his lips until he’s 21. That’s just absurd paternalism. (The one good thing that came about from it, ‘it cuts down on fights in the barracks’, is not a good enough reason to abridge rights).

Do not write and lecture about drunk driving. I’m an ER doc, and I see more drunk drivers than any other group, excepting maybe bartenders. I guarantee I see more injured people after drunk driving accidents that any other group, and drunk drivers really piss me off. However, nanny-statism, taking away rights “for your own good” makes me much more angry, and IMHO adds to the cynicism of youngsters towards the hypocritical elders who passed this law.

This federal 21 y/o temperance act makes absolutely certain that when kids drink (they will) they’ll just have worse outcomes because they’re compelled to hide it. Read the above article for what happens when parents try to keep their kids from driving drunk: the prohibitionists come out of the woodwork and are now trying to figure out how to make it a jailable offense.

MADD started out with the right idea (stop drunk driving), but like most do-gooder organizations has become more and more extremist, with a widening agenda. Always be suspicious of those who take away freedoms for your own good. You, and I, should decide for ourselves what is good for us.

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Update: Dr. Centor is on the same tear.


  1. I don’t know Doc, I think maybe that 11:00pm until 7:00am shift of police officers see about as many drunks as do the ER doctors. My husband worked those hours for over 20 years and it seemed like his entire shift was spent dealing with drunks and all their antics. I have a feeling that every time you deal with a drunk there is a cop close by.

  2. I have had personal experience with “drunk driving” and MADD. You’re absolutely right in saying groups like MADD started out well-meaning but became extremist. I acknowledge the problems that drunk driving causes, but it has become a witch-hunt instead of trying to logically solve a problem. I was pulled over at 5 am one night for a broken tail-light. I had drank that night, but had been responsible and had not touched a drink in over an hour before going behind the wheel of my car. I rationally calculated how much alochol could possibly be left in my body and decided it was less than 2 drinks and I was capable of driving. With absolutely no reason, other than I acknowledged to the officer that I had imbibed alcohol, I was arrested for DUI. When they gave me the breathalyzer, I registered a .07 (below the legal limit). I was still charged for DUI because that particular state has a law saying you can be charged with DUI for as little as .001 in your system.

    Because MADD has become a powerful lobbying force and politicians buckle to their whims, some people’s lives are actually hurt. My BAC was below the legal limit, I was stopped for a non-moving violation, and I cooperated wholly with law enforcement. I was very responsible in how I acted that night, but because of groups like MADD, I spent 16 hours in jail and am spending thousands in legal fees to fight an absurd charge. My life was near ruined…for the equivalent of 2 drinks in my system. My right to drive was suspended immediately and I had to fight to get it back. If I am convicted (which, admittedly, is highly unlikely), I will have a criminal record (ask yourself: was what I did really criminal? CRIMINAL?). I also risk having such an arrest appear on my driving record, skyrocketing my insurance premiums (I have a perfectly clean record with no prior accidents or tickets).

    All this because of groups like MADD. Groups who think they know what is best for me. Groups who would sacrifice my future and those of hundreds others (criminal convictions do not look good on resumes) because in their warped world, alcohol (in this case) is the root of any problem.

    So I know this is a long rant, but my point is this: allow groups like MADD to keep pushing their agenda, and you are looking at serious infringement of rights. How long will it be until drinking at 18 is considered a criminal offense? How many 18 y/o will have to forgo a promising future because they had one drink? 6 months ago, I would have shrugged this off thinking it was a bit far-fetched. But now I’m facing serious consequences from 2 drinks. Two drinks…absurd huh?

  3. Nurse Kelley says:

    Sorry, Cathy, but your assumption is incorrect. I work in the ER at night and while I would not want to play a round of “who sees the most drunks” with a cop, I can tell you we frequently see drunks with no cops around. We also see many injured drunk drivers that are apparently not cited and dismiss them to home. I know the cops see a lot of drunks that we never have to deal with, however, we also see a lot of drunks that the police never deal with.

  4. Nurse Kelley, where in the world do you work? Drunk drivers that are not cited and released home? Not in the city I live in…Drunk drivers here always get cited, lose their license, do jail time, and their cars are impounded.Most of them don’t go to ER unless they are injured from causing an accident. They go to the drunk tanks.

  5. What state has a .001 limit?

  6. Its not a .001 limit. The state limit is .08. However, the state is allowed to be subjective down to .001 in charging people with DUI. In other words, even though you have a lawful BAC, they can charge you with DUI if they “think” any amount of alcohol in your system (above .001) has affected your driving abilities. Its ludicrous, but unfortunately thats what MADD manages to get put into the state books.

  7. Additionally, I just want to point out how unfair the legal loopholes for charging people are. There is a zero-tolerance mindset when it comes to anything involving acohol in many states. Even if alcohol is not a factor, its presence merits an arrest. I know in California, i had a friend-of-a-friend who was charged with DUI after making an illegal U-turn. His BAC was .06. The U-turn sign was indiscernable and the traffic citation for that was dropped, but he was still charged with DUI.

    I think it has a lot to do with “quotas” for arrests and wanting to please MADD, but the whole DUI thing has really gotten out of hand. Many judges are getting upset with the whole thing and throwing out the majority of DUI cases (pissing off MADD). The whole process still causes a great deal of grief and trouble for the person charged.

  8. Arizona is one of those states where you can be charged with DUI regardless of the actual BAC.

    Having worked ER night shifts for 13 years I can vouch for the number of drunks and drunk related idiots we have to treat. Plus we don?t have the option of taking out a club and whacking the belligerent idiot on the back of the legs to get them to sit down and behave.

    I can?t count the number of drunks who I have seen go home rather than being charged with DUI. All a person has to do is say they have chest pain and the cops are obligated to take them (or have the medics) to the ER. These fakers who are allergic to going to jail then just lay around knowing that it is going to be hours and hours before they are released. The Cops get tired of waiting and leave.

    The really smart drunks wait until after they are arrested to proclaim they have “chest pain.” Then the city or county has to pick up the bill for the hospital visit. I hate the local police department. Don?t even get me started on the impossibility of getting our local cops to bust the crack house across the street. If you want to drink and drive and get away with it, Peoria and Glendale Arizona are the cities to head to.

    Sorry about the run-on paragraph, for some reason it would not recognize paragraph breaks.

  9. Oops, it recognizes paragraph breaks after you post.

  10. “I hate the local police department.”

    Ah, everyone hates the police! Of course , that sentiment soon changes when they NEED one.

    I’m sorry there are police forces that work in this manner that they seem to have made ememies of local ER staff. Cops that leave drunks unatteneded at local ERs when they are in custody? I’ve never heard of that. I’m sure it doesn’t happen every where, unless that is something that has become prevalent in the last decade. My husband retired in 1992.

    I can promise that cops use to spend alot of time at the ERs with drunks, auto accident victims, etc. I was an ER nurse (in the 70s) when I met my husband. (THE COP) We both worked 3rd. shift. Even if drunks came in unattended, meaning not in police custody, the local police were there very quickly if we called..

    Don’t you have any in-house security at your hospitals that you can utilize with irrate patients?

  11. Cathy,

    I try not to put myself into positions where I need the cops for anything as they are totally unreliable in Peoria Arizona. It is standard practice for the cops to dump drunks in the ER and leave. Sometimes they ask us to call them when we are done. We call and they either don?t show up or come after the person has left. It?s a joke, a deadly joke but still a joke.

    I just don?t know what the answer to the problem is

  12. Nurse Kelley says:

    Sorry I hadn’t kept up with these postings, but I completely agree with Azygos. I used to have nothing but the highest respect for police and I will still respect them in my private life, but in my professional role as an ER Charge Nurse, I have found them to be rarely helpful. Have a policeman stand in front of you and refuse to write a mental app on a patient who has narrowly avoided committing suicide four hours ago and now swears to police she didn’t mean it and won’t do it again. Have him leave you in a position to have to release this woman from the ER and then have a 25 year old officer answer your concerns for this woman going home to kill herself with a blithe, “well, you must have problems with people killing themselves, but I don’t think it’s wrong for a person to take their own life.” Have them lie to your face about having run this woman for warrants and them tell me you don’t lose respect for the badge.
    Yes, Cathy, I think police work has changed a lot since the ’70’s, and I’m sure that there are some officers out there still operating from a core of solid values, but I think your husband would be surprised at the average cop on the street.
    And I don’t work anywhere near Azygos. I work in Texas. Some policemen do come in and monitor patients, but we treat an amazing number of drunks with no cops around. And, owing to the fact that we still live in the United States of America, we cannot call the police to tell them this person was driving drunk. So most of the time they go home to drive again another day.
    I’m sure that police departments have their own problems and I am glad that no one in my family serves in that capacity. I’m sure their intent is not to “make enemies in the ER”. I’m sure that their hands are tied in so many instances by bureacracy and a lack of time. It is a huge problem that most people are privileged not to see.
    And yes, we do have hospital security, and we do utilize them as needed. That is a totally different subject.