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Just One for the Road

Drunk driving affects all students and needs to be addressed.
Drunk driving affects all students and needs to be addressed.

Barron H. Lerner, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Columbia University, held a discussion on Dec. 1 at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

Promoting his new book “One for the Road,” Lerner was greeted by a vibrant crowd containing medical professionals, health and psychology majors as well as members of the Kansas City public and the UMKC student body.

Lerner’s angle for his research and analysis is not to vilify the culprits of drunk-driving and “name and shame them” as he states, but rather to “examine, explain and understand this widespread issue” in the context of American beliefs about alcoholism, driving, individualism, and civil liberties in terms of their own specific area of study. “One for the Road” is essentially a detailed debate between those passionately against drunk driving, who wish to halt the avoidable death toll which coincides with this “habit,” and those who feel the problem is exaggerated and unfixable.

As a result, Lerner simply asked the Plaza Library, “Why do these opposing views exist?” before forwarding his own personal belief that Americans’ love of drinking, love of driving, an inadequate public transportation system and the strength of the alcohol lobby and the enduring backlash against Prohibition all create a system of what is now a “drink-driving culture.” It overlooks the necessary steps needed to defeat such a problem on the behalf of the American people themselves and not just the governing powers to be.

While adorning the efforts of activist groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which calls for drunk driving education on local and nationwide levels, as well as promote changes in governing legislation, Lerner counters that while these brief movements are “morally momentous,” needless numbers are still being killed as a result of the problem. The American nation has acquired what he calls a “routine rejection of reasonable solutions regarding drinking and driving.”

So what can the UMKC community learn from Lerner’s analysis? Well, dry-campus or no dry-campus, drunk-driving is a problem. Like it or not, we all either partake, or know someone who partakes in this sickening act on a weekly basis, and as the holiday season rapidly approaches without a change in the public’s mentality, habits and perhaps a re-education on the needless deaths associated with this phenomenon.

Lerner’s speech was extremely well received on what is an emotional subject for many. His book provides a new insight into the world of drunk-driving on both a cultural and historic level through the use of celebrity case-studies, tradition and also by digging at the interesting topic of the inadequacy of public transportation systems.

Somewhat expectedly, but nonetheless extremely appropriately, Lerner concluded the evening with some clear-cut, to-the-point references to the prevention of drink-driving scenarios. Lerner says, “Don’t drink and drive. It’s a deceptively simple rule, but one that is all too often ignored.” While previously debating the understanding of the old tradition of drunk-driving, he quickly re-iterates a call to action in relation to this problem: action that begins with the people present at the discussion, to the UMKC campus, to Kansas City as a whole and on towards safer conditions for the American public itself.

lharman@unews.com

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