Letters from the week of September 16, 2004

 drinking problem

A public service: Finally, somebody had the nerve to say it! People at .08 ain't the problem ("How to Drink and Drive and Get Away With It," Bruce Rushton, September 2). I've always believed that this is just a ploy for the legal system -- be it the courts and cops or DUI lawyers -- to get rich. I'm saying, you either pay your fine for a low-level DUI, serve your little jail stint and have your insurance premium skyrocket, or you hire a lawyer like Larry Kazan, pay him a mint and get out of it. Either way, somebody gets some considerable coin, and that's the whole point.

What you should have provided in your excellent story is how much total revenue municipalities and counties take in from drunken-driving arrests. I'll bet that pays most of the bills in speed traps like Paradise Valley, where I used to live.

I'm not saying that extreme DUIs don't deserve to be put in mean old Joe Arpaio's jails. They are a menace! But most of the revenue coming in from DUI arrests isn't from people at .15 and worse, it's from people who have had a couple of drinks and aren't causing anybody any problem. (As you intimated, arrest the fuckers on cell phones; they are far more problematic!) The propaganda to the contrary is just that -- propaganda. And anybody who says otherwise should read your article thoroughly.

One thing's for sure: Bruce Rushton's given readers news they can use! Several of us in my office read the story today, and we vowed to keep a copy in the consoles of our cars so we can read through it before we even think about hitting a bar for happy hour. I'm sure you will have the usual crybabies who refuse to understand the story's point (who don't even really read more than the headline), trying to have Rushton drawn and quartered, but don't listen to any of that. You've done a public service with this one.
Sandy Barber, Tucson

Truth in advertising: I honestly thought there was no way that your article could really be about how to get away with drinking and driving. But I gave New Times too much credit. Go ahead and let yourself believe that you were just pointing out that the system can be wrong. It doesn't change the fact that you just gave all those people who say they're "fine" at bars ammunition to justify another drink.

Your line that "no one likes drunk drivers" is just a lame disclaimer. Drunk drivers use that to make themselves feel separated from the "bad" variety, as if not planning on getting drunk and driving is different from what the other drunk drivers do. People don't usually head into it with the idea that they're going to get smashed and drive (sadly, some do). They push it and end up in a bad place. Well, at least you made the whole cab thing seem like a good option. Wait, no you didn't.

Did you really think this was the right way to approach the subject? You could have easily pointed out all the reasons someone could be convicted wrongly of a DUI without ever implying that drinking and driving is okay or giving people a blueprint for how to do it. In my experience, most people are okay with drinking and driving even though they will say it's wrong when someone else expresses that sentiment.

I am a tiny minority because I won't ever drink more than a beer or two and drive after a decent amount of time. Alcohol clearly impairs driving ability, even if it's sometimes just a small handicap in the .08 cases. That's all you need in an already dangerous driving situation to push it to a more dangerous -- and statistically more likely to be deadly -- situation. You think this is overblown? I have 10 (count 'em) 10 dead friends and relatives due to drunk drivers, and not one of them was in the drunk driver's car.

Sure, you're just journalists doing your jobs. It shouldn't be your concern how people digest it. Go ahead and believe that.
Dan Hargest, Scottsdale

A financial bonanza: There's no question in my mind that the cops, the courts and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers have a political agenda to turn people's nights out with a few friends into a financial bonanza based on intimidation and false information. If it weren't for DUI convictions and red light/photo-radar tickets, Snottsburg would have to raise taxes to make up for lost revenue.

Let me relate a funny situation. I was up in northern Wisconsin with three friends a few years ago on our annual fishing trip. We were pulled over by a cop who was positive he had a live one, we being in a relatively new Jeep Grand Cherokee with Illinois plates. The guy driving is one lousy driver. It looks like he's been drinking when he drives. The beautiful thing was that he's out there going through all of the cop's arsenal of tricks and tests -- stone cold sober. He doesn't drink. Of course, the three of us in the car had had a few, but we're simply along for the ride. To say the least, the cop probably let a few dozen certified DUIs go by (Wisconsin is a tavern-at-every-intersection kind of state) while he wasted his time with our driver. It was a hilarious situation.

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