Dear Annie: I am writing this letter in behalf of the 10,874 people killed by drunken drivers last year. Your answer to “Trying to Do the Right Thing” reflects a common attitude toward alcoholism that confuses moral obligation and Alcoholics
Most people now accept that alcoholism is a disease, but that fact does not keep alcoholics from killing others when they drive. It is true that a spouse cannot usually threaten an alcoholic into certain behaviors, but it is not true that a spouse has no responsibility. If a woman found out her husband had a gun in his car and he was going to use it, would you advise her to turn her back and go to a meeting? No, because one has an obligation to the rest of society to interfere in behavior that endangers people’s lives.
If you know your spouse, son, daughter, etc., is driving drunk, you have a moral obligation to call the police. Yes, your family life will be disrupted. But the alternative is your family member could kill someone.
Every time a drunk person drives away, all the people around the person chose to sacrifice someone else’s family for their own comfort or because of a false sense that they couldn’t have done anything. Each person has a responsibility to help protect innocent lives! Just because you have no control over the drinking does not mean you are helpless.
Most alcoholics do not want to kill someone but have impaired judgment. Sober family members, friends, co-workers have a responsibility to protect society. Please explain how to logically separate the two issues — power over the drinking and power over drinking and driving. This confusion costs all of us! Thank you.
Dear Elizabeth: Thank you for this important letter. In my response to “Trying to Do the Right Thing,” I focused on the impact of her husband’s drinking on her marriage, not on how his drinking and driving is endangering lives. Though I don’t think we should seek to lay blame at the feet of family members and friends (that belongs squarely with the person who chooses to drink and drive), being powerless to control another’s drinking does not mean being powerless to call 911 if you know a person is getting behind the wheel of a
car while intoxicated.
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