Sunday, December 19, 2010

 

Paper pays pundit to drink and drive


by Larry Geller

In 2008, 40% of  auto accident fatalities in Hawaii involved a driver who had .08% blood-alcohol content or higher. That was the fourth highest rate among states in the country (tied with Montana).

Hawaii News Now reports that 52 of the 109 traffic fatalities in 2009 (48%) were due to alcohol-impaired driving.

Drinking and driving is killing us, it shouldn’t be encouraged. Yet that’s just what our daily newspaper is doing. It was disappointing to read Tiki’s Teases Taste Buds in the Star-Advertiser, particularly in this holiday season as counties gear up to prevent drunken driving.

The concept of “Pau Hana Patrol,” a feature popularizing drinking and driving, is highly problematic to begin with. Surely, the newspaper business can’t be that bad.

From the first sip to the last, there was no question that this was a drink with a good bit of alcohol.
…The $5 “Happy Hour” Mai Tai that I’d started out with wasn’t bad. I’d never been more aware of the ice cubes that are part of the basic recipe, but by the time I finished it there was no doubt that the deceptively innocuous drink contained a significant amount of alcohol.

But then — strictly in the interests of Pau Hana Patrol research — I ordered a 1944 Mai Tai ($9) from the Nuevo Classics menu.

The Taco Tuesday drink specials sounded tempting, but it had been a long day and I had a long drive through rush hour traffic ahead of me. Consider it unfinished business for the future.

Here’s a guy who knew exactly what he was doing—drinking before driving home—and he did it anyway. He knew that the drinks were strong. Worse, the Star-Advertiser not only presumably is paying him to drink and drive, they are encouraging it in a season where they ought to be warning motorists to find a designated driver or take public transportation if they are going to indulge.

See, for example,

As the holiday season arrives, Hawaii County is gearing up for renewed awareness of driver safety on local roads and highways.

County officials gathered for a media conference on Wednesday to discuss anti-drunk driving measures being taken to prevent needless injuries and deaths from alcohol-related crashes.   [Big Island Video News, VIDEO: Hawaii County prepares for holiday DUI prevention, 11/28/2010]

On the Big Island, the police, prosecutor, their department of liquor control, the transit system and of course the mayor are solidly behind an education program that is the complete antithesis of what the Star-Advertiser is promoting.

I can’t accuse the writer of being over any limit, neither he nor I know what his blood alcohol level was when he started his car to head home. The legality isn’t the point.

The purpose of “Pau Hana Patrol” is to encourage drinking and driving, and that’s not good, especially when the rest of society recognizes this as a problem, and when the statistics show Hawaii is among the worst in the country. With 48% of traffic deaths (and the papers don’t usually report injuries) attributable to alcohol, it’s time to stop promoting a deadly custom, not celebrate it.

Shame on the editors.

And what if this guy gets into a collision “in which alcohol was a factor” and it turns out that he was paid by the paper to drink?

I think it’s fair to demand an explanation from the Star-Advertiser. And if they have any sense of responsibility they’ll find ways to promote safe drinking by getting on the bandwagon for sensible transportation afterwards. Either pay their reporter to take a taxi home (and write about it) or make him ride the bus. And let us know that you’ve done that.

Do I expect a reply? I’ll be surprised. Predictably, the editor will email “Dan, next time don’t mention you’re driving home or that [expletive] blogger will be on our case again.”

We have a DUI problem in this state, folks, and it’s real and deadly. “Pau Hana Patrol” needs to get with the program..




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