Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Drinking and driving: The way we live sucks

By William Brand
Thursday, January 1st, 2009 at 4:28 pm in Uncategorized.

My post yesterday about how much alcohol it takes to be legally under the influence in California (and other states where you are intoxicated if you blow  a 0.08), brought an interesting comment:

  • what can you say/do…we live in a polce state…seat belt laws…helmet laws…cell phone laws..the list is long..luckily i have a designated most of the time..

My comment: I  know we seem to be deluged with rules and it sucks —  well, it certainly messes with my lifestyle.

However, looking at it from the other side — I know this is a big :”yes but” — but in my early days,  I was a crime reporter at a small newspaper in rural Nebraska and I also took crime scene and accident photos for the local district attorney and sheriff’s office. During those four years I got to see the effects of alcohol on driving first-hand.  It was — well, it was sobering. So I understand the push toward lower alcohol limits.

The American problem – our problem – is the way we live sucks. I mean we’re totally auto-oriented. Most of us live in places where mass transit doesn’t exist or is sucky.

For instance, I live three miles from the closest BART station; there’s only bus service 9-5 weekdays and it’s five blocks to the damn bus stop.  So I drive, usually to BART. Coming home, I don’t get back in the car ’til I’m certain I’m sober.  It’s a hell of a way to live.

In fact, it changes where I go. I hate visiting friends where we’re going to drink good beer, but the only way to get there is driving. I envy my friends who live in San Francisco, Oakland and other cities, where a trip to the pub is a short walk.

For the rest of us, the whole system is loaded against us. We love good beer, but the laws are tough and cops are relentless.  What to do? Drinking at homne is one solution, but nothing beats the warmth and friendship of a good pub. It’s a dilemma, isn’t it.   One thing we need is better transit. Comments anyone?

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  • Bay Point Resident

    I agree we need better pubic transportation. 9-5 doesn’t cut it when BART runs until midnight. I would love to just leave my vehicle at home any time I choose to go out or to keep it from getting broken into at BART. I’ve had to switch BART stations because North Concord is so criminal friendly, it isn’t safe to leave your vehicle there. Pittsburg is a horrible station to have to exit out of at midnight because of all the riff raff hanging in the parking lot. Same goes with North Concord at times too.

    Anyway, I don’t understand why we don’t have bus services that extends as long as BART is open; it really sucks. They started that new bus to Concord BART from my neighborhood but the last bus is at 6:00 p.m. I work 3-12:00 a.m.,

    BART has had to many delays anyway, I wonder how much longer they will be in business at their present disaster rate. People are also really tired of having their vehicles broken into and being stranded due to delays and if someone misses their stop because there is no bus service out of pittsburg late.

    One would think in 2008 with all these developments, that some lame brain would have thought to make these guys pay for public transportation before they built their crap houses and ruined our county.

  • Derrick

    >what can you say/do…we live in a polce state…seat >belt laws…helmet laws…cell phone laws..the list is >long..luckily i have a designated most of the time..

    >My comment: I know we seem to be deluged with rules >and it sucks – well, it certainly messes with my >lifestyle.

    Ahem…since I, and probably you, pay auto, life, and heath insurance, not to mention taxes that support emergency rooms, emergency services, and rehabilitation services, and what not, it’s not just whether you think it’s a police state, or whether it crimps your life style. These issues involve real people, real money and major life altering events, like getting blind sided by a drunk driver. I suggest anyone spend a few days in a trauma ER if you’d like to see first hand, the consequences of drunk driving, not wearing a seat belt, or careless accidents caused by things like yakking on a cell phone while driving.

    Let’s get real, right now.

    And if we really would like more people to appreciate craft brew over industrial lagers, claiming many sensible laws “crimp our life style”, really “suck”, or is evidence of a police state is about the worst possible thing we could say.

    And yes, we do need a better public transportation system, but perhaps we should start looking pretty hard in the mirror, before suggesting societal change.

  • William Brand

    Yeah, you’ve got it right Derrick. It’s why I don’t drink and drive. Alcohol and driving don’t mix. Period. About public transportation… there just doesn’t seem to be any hope at all. Other countries heavily subsidize their mass transit services; we heavily subsidize autos and freeways. Don’t know if it will ever change.

  • brewnot

    Of course the state of our public transportation system is no excuse to drive impaired.

    I think everybody agrees that we cannot allow drunk drivers on the road. The question we are left with, is the 0.08% BAC too low, too high or just right?

    Having said that . . . .

    Public transportation is heavily subsidized in California too.

    There is not way BART, the various County Transits, Light Rail and Caltrains operate at anything other than a substantial deficit. After all these years they are still in business thanks to huge subsidies.

    In California, propositions for increasing taxes to pay for public transportation get voter approval fairly regularly. The reason? People think, “I am going to vote for BART so other people will take it and leave more room for me and my car on the road.”

    Here in Santa Clara County, I doubt is possible to create an effective and practical public transportation system. We are too big and too spread out.

    You want to get on a bus/train/subway close to your house, make one transfer and get to your destination. Pick two points in for start and finish. Can you get there from here? If so, what is the time compared to driving? Some one making 100K/year is not going to add an hour to their commute.

    In Silicon Valley, there would have to be a huge and complex grid with buses spaced 10-15 minutes apart. With all the stops, it might take you hours to get somewhere.

    Manhattan can do it with a good dense grid, subways every 5-10 minutes and it is not that big of an area to cover. Plus being a subway, they have their own unimpeded paths, not stop lights and cross traffic.

  • Derrick

    I woke up this morning wondering if my message last evening was too combative or polarizing. A close personal friend of mine works in head injury trauma and rehabilitation at Valley Medical Center, and has told me first hand all the horrible stories about people driving drunk, not wearing seatbelts, car surfing, playing chicken, and all sorts of high-risk behavior that, in addition to high human cost, needlessly strains the already stretched thin resources of this hospital. And that got me pretty fired up, and my post reflected that.

    So perhaps, public investment in public transportation can be seen as a public health and safety investment, which makes it worth subsidizing. Someone could run the numbers to see how many cars it takes off the street, how many accidents it would prevent, and what the cost of the accidents would be. And of course, if it takes high risk drivers off the road, such as those who have had a few drinks, that would further justify the investment.

    It is also an economic development issue. As Beer By Bart shows, certain businesses are strengthened by a public transportation system. So public tranportation is also an investment in economic development, to be repaid in business taxes.

    And I think brewnot hits it on the head why public transportation is so lacking in the South Bay, and other lower population density regions of the overall Bay Area: The lower population density really cannot sustain public transportation very well. Public transportation is a fact of life in dense cities like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and virtually all major European cities.

    They are building high rises around downtown San Jose, so I’m optimistic that over time, the climate for public transportation will improve down here.

    I believe the lower population density of the South Bay is one of the factors why you’ll find plenty of BevMos down here, but places like the Toronado or City Beer still haven’t taken root, but that is another thread.

  • Mario (Brewed For Thought)

    Everyone’s making great, well thought out points, so I’m going the opposite direction.

    Take a cab.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  • Dr Wort


    Can you send me your email address….. again?!

  • William Brand

    To brewnot…BART to San Jose would be a good start. But you’re right, outside of our central cities, SF, Oakland-Berkeley, the car rules. And sadly, a lot of us are going to be driving while legally intoxicated, if not drunk. It’s a damnable situation, but it’s what’s happening.

  • William Brand

    Sure Doc…it’s or But I prefer beer-related email and email from friends at

  • craig

    i really don’t know how to respond… a quote from an old drug dealer comes to mind…”if you can’t handle your shit…don’t do it!”…personnally i think .08 is too used to be higher..

  • brewnot

    January 2nd, 2009 at 8:58 am
    Mario (Brewed For Thought) Says: “Take a cab.”

    Excellent advice.

    I bet every person as they stood in court to face drunk driving charges wish they did that.

    Cabs are cheap compared to getting arrested.

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  • Brian Yaeger

    That someone who so clearly embraces moderation and responsible transportation when imbibing beyond 0.08 BAC should get struck by a MUNI train compounds the irony in this tragedy. Bill, when you read this, please know I wish we could’ve hastened or delayed our parting from 21A by a few seconds. Get well soon!

  • Bill James

    I really enjoy the content of your blog, since I am a blog addict I shall return, lol