Drivers are drunk, not buzzed

Readers' Letters
by: Christopher Onstott During a Dec. 20 vigil, Roger Averbeck holds a candle and photograph of Angela Burke, the 26-year-old Southwest Portland resident killed by a drunken driver along Southwest Barbur Boulevard last month. City transportation officials began hanging banners over 10 of Portland’s most dangerous streets as part of the new Driving Under the Influence Awareness Week in late December.

Buzzed drivers. Not defined in the article 'City tries to block 'buzzed' drivers' (Dec. 30), but it seemingly means something less than being legally intoxicated. Or does it? Actually, there is no difference between being 'buzzed' and being legally intoxicated. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 'found that young men between the ages of 18 and 34 were responsible for the vast majority of drunken-driving accidents. But when asked, these young men made a distinction between being drunk and being buzzed.' (ABC: Buzzed driving is drunken driving)

Another way to look at it - if you think you are buzzed, then you are drunk. But it seems that this 'buzzed' campaign takes away from efforts to stop driving while intoxicated. Frankly, it is difficult to believe that anyone who enters a bar ever believes that his or her drinking will cause a death. In fact, it has to be just the opposite.

Drunken driving speaks more to the potential result - death. Buzzed driving doesn't. It sounds more like an anti-drinking campaign.

Moreover, it is speculative to assume that these banners would have any influence on driving while intoxicated or on alcohol consumption.

Rather than assuring that the justice system hammers those guilty of manslaughter, social engineering (social norming) is the effort. It is real simple - conduct and consequences.

Larry Norton

Northwest Portland

Distracted driving more hazardous

It is a failure of message, and a misguided one, if you ask me (City tries to block 'buzzed' drivers, Dec. 30). If the message is to say that even a single drink is dangerous while simultaneously acknowledging that 0.08 blood alcohol content is the legal limit, that is only going to turn off people from paying attention.

I am NOT saying that buzzed driving is OK, but the idea that buzzed driving is a big problem is way off the mark. Consider: Fewer than 6 percent of all fatalities in 2008 (just over 2,000 deaths) were associated with people above 0.01 percent (minimum to be considered alcohol-related) and below 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (legal limit in all states), by NHTSA's numbers.

By comparison, distracted driving contributed to 20 percent of all driving-related fatalities in 2008 according to the NHTSA, and 'buzzed' driving contributed to fewer deaths than secondhand smoke (nearly 50,000 total between heart disease and lung cancer) annually, according to the Center for Disease Control.

What about the nearly 200,000 annual deaths by errors at U.S. hospitals, and the 36,000 people who die from complications from influenza through the thoughtlessness of people who walk around and go to work while sick?

It is absolutely tragic that anyone should die from a buzzed driver, and my intention is NOT to demean any person's loss in the least. But this issue must be put into perspective.

Buzzed driving incurs far less risk of death for any given, innocent bystander than that of secondhand smoke. And more pertinent to the issue of driving-related deaths, distracted driving is a much higher risk and problem than buzzed driving.

If we want to save the lives of innocent bystanders, shouldn't we concentrate our efforts on cutting down on distracted driving and secondhand smoke? Truly, I understand that this actually is a false choice, since every unintentional death should be prevented. But if the totality of society's goal is to reduce preventable, if not accidental, deaths, certainly focusing on 2,000 deaths due to buzzed driving is a red herring.

And without a doubt, buzzed driving that can lead to death is indefensible. But, well, if we're going to say that every single life is precious and needs protecting, shouldn't we all be wearing bulletproof vests under layers of bubble wrap with an attached defibrillator? Shouldn't we outlaw all weapons, especially sharp knives?

Yes, folks, life incurs risks.

Gregg Mizuno

Northwest Portland

Regulations protect the common good

I was disheartened to read someone who still believes that giving money to the rich will help the poor, and ignoring regulations will allow for prosperity (Support, don't limit businesses, Readers' Letters, Dec. 30).

Has this person been in the Cayman Islands for the past 12 years? We are at the end of 30 years of these policies and it has ruined our economy. The reason we have regulations is because, left to themselves, the rich were working 10-year-old children 12 hours a day with no safety requirements, inadequate heat and light. And then, when they became too sick to work, the children were kicked out into the street. Mining and timber companies will clear cut and strip mine down to the bedrock and dump the waste into the nearest creek.

Government is the expression of who we are as a people. Why would we want to be a small-minded, cold-hearted, greedy people? The American people used to pursue the common good - governance was called public service. Why have we allowed those who will only do good work if they are permitted to become filthy rich take over our government? Since when is the opportunity to pursue endless riches with no accountability to fellow citizens the American ideal?

If you've ever played Monopoly, you may think that you've won when you bankrupt your fellow players. This is incorrect. With all the wealth in the hands of the few super rich and corporations, the game is over - the antithesis of the Common Good.

Orrin Miller

Southeast Portland

Existing laws should be enforced

What we need is more enforcement of existing laws ('Lottery row' a magnet for crime, Dec. 16). If we just had the old 'roadblock' capability, the driving while impaired problem would go away. Maybe if the Oregon Liquor Control Commission gave a hoot about anything but increased sales, it could target a few of the places with its undercover folks. Of course, the OLCC would take at least a year to study the matter, even if a drunk drove over a person right out of the parking lot.

The Oregon Lottery folks are just in it for profit and have probably had the governor's folks whispering in their ear to look the other way for these well-connected LLC folks.

As far as the strip club goes, why anyone would gain comfort from the words of a paid PR professional puzzles me - they are hired by folks trying to bury the truth or cover something up. With the connections and clout (Gordon) Durant and (Katy) Sondland have, we should expect this attention to 'go away' in the near future.

Dennis Lively


Janzten Beach the new druggie center

Last month, I double-parked at Denny's in Jantzen Beach so that my daughter could use the ATM. As I sat there, a car pulled up next to another car and everyone got out, seemed to be talking and shaking hands, then they left.

Duh, I just witnessed a drug deal.

It happens all the time in the (manufactured home) park where I live. People on bikes, big flashy cars with blacked out windows - it doesn't matter, money and little white packets change hands. And now Gordon Sundlund and Katy Durant want to put in a strip club to replace the closed Newport Bay restaurant. Soon all the Washington shoppers can shop, pop and get their underwear in a bunch all in one place: Jantzen Beach Super Center.

Donna Murphy

Hayden Island