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Take the 'D' out of DUI: Drink at home

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007

A friend phoned last week asking about the possibility of writing an op-ed column for the Trib.

He was delayed while driving by a recent State Police DUI checkpoint, which caused him to miss a dinner reservation. When I reminded him that he would be arguing an unpopular, pro-drunken driving viewpoint, he quickly lost interest.

That's understandable.

When the authorities can pull over 6,200 random motorists and snag 18 impaired drivers -- plus two for drug violations, as they did during an Interstate 279 checkpoint Oct. 27 -- it's time we start separating our drinking from our driving.

Granted, that's a hard division to make, since many suburban communities are places where driving is necessary in order to get just about anywhere.

But the same friend who considered writing an anti-checkpoint column has invited me to parties at his home in Pine. Given the distance from my house to his, and my fondness for hops, I've always declined.

He has few options. In many suburban communities, neighborhood bars are as rare as Saturday night carpools.

But that doesn't prevent many folks from tanking up in bars and then taking the wheel.

Ali Wenger, a PennDOT spokeswoman in Harrisburg, said 21 Allegheny County residents lost their lives in DUI crashes last year. That's a notable reduction from the 42 who died in 2005.

Still, there were 53,767 DUI cases in Pennsylvania last year, and 544 motorists lost their lives in drinking-related crashes.

With figures like those, I wonder why people don't just drink at home.

I've been thinking about this a great deal lately, because I've grown increasingly tired of the noise, costs and unsolicited human contact of bar life.

There tend to be three basic people in bars: The desperate, the lonely and the desperately lonely.

Time and time again, I've dropped in some joint for a quiet beer or two, hoping for a little mental down time, only to hear rants about subjects as mundane and uninteresting as taxes, football, the state of "these crazy kids today," the impending Martian invasion, the weather, who at the bar is sleeping with whom, golf scores and, my all-time favorite, the horrible ex-wife/husband who caused someone to, hic, sob, start drinking in the first place.

Although it has been said that drinking alone is a bad idea, I can't recall being accosted with an unsolicited sob story in my living room. Nobody, to my knowledge, ever received a DUI citation, lost his or her license or caused deaths or bodily injuries in a motor vehicle crash in their dining room.

If we really want to see an end to DUI checkpoints, let's park our cars and find a nice, comfy place to drink at home -- a place where neither cops nor drunks can bother us.

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