Beer and Drunken Driving

The very first links between beer consumption and drunken driving have appeared in the literature since the earliest studies of traffic collisions made by Borkenstein and his colleagues in the 1960s. Those empirical studies established real connections: they found that drivers involved in alcohol-related crashes, as well as those convicted of DWI or arrested for suspicion of drunken driving, were most often beer drinkers.

These first findings are supported by recent studies of archival data from the U.S. indicating that beer sales, compared with wine and spirits sales, are most strongly related to rates of fatal single vehicle night time crashes. This is in fact an accepted surrogate for all alcohol-related crashes. Other general population studies of alcohol consumers showed that those who drink and drive are likely to express a preference for drinking beer rather than wine or spirits. So, it’s crystal clear that drunken drivers have clear option for beer.

This fact gets more significance when they show that this relationship between beer use and drinking-driving occurs independently of those covariates known to be related to beer preference (for example, gender, ethnicity and age). We have here a general preference for beer and a social phenomenon called driving impairment generated by alcohol consumption.

The relationship between beer preference and drinking-driving should be considered on some important cultural features associated with beer consumption in the U.S. These cultural theories often portray beer consumption as a male activity associated with athletic prowess, sports participation or spectatorship and, not surprisingly, the attraction of like-minded women.

They assert, moreover, that in the culture (as evidenced by the media, advertising, etc.) beer consumption is depicted as a form of alcohol use in which physical activity can be maintained despite ethanol’s debilitating effects. These portrayals establish and reinforce cultural or social norms that may encourage driving after drinking beer and make the beer consumer’s decision to get behind wheel even if he’s alcohol intoxicated.

In order to change these cultural perceptions, some effort from all media is required. Stopping stupid advertising and talking about fatal effects of alcohol on the everyday traffic could be a good start. Some civil associations have already begun the war against drunken drivers. The best example is Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – a very powerful organization, known to strongly promote laws having to do with drunk driving and underage drinking.