Monday, March 25, 2013

Another story linking drunk driving to rural living

I covered this story out of Montana last spring, and now a similar story has appeared in the New York Times, dateline Kilgarvan, Ireland.  Douglas Dalby reports from County Kerry that it "became the center of an international media frenzy this winter when the local council voted to legalize drunken driving."  Dalby then clarifies:

What the Kerry County Council actually did was to pass a motion calling for people who live in country areas to be allowed to have a few beers before driving home. 
The measure was proposed by Danny Healy-Rae, a local pub owner and politician, with an eye to addressing two issues at once: the decline of pub culture and the isolation of rural life, particularly for older residents. 
Mr. Healy-Rae’s motion called on the minister for justice to allow the police the discretion “to issue permits to people living in rural isolated areas to allow them to drive home from their nearest pub after having two or three drinks on little-used roads driving at very low speeds.” 
He argued that this would help combat isolation and even lower the risk of suicide.
Dalby quotes Healy-Rae's further clarification:
I am talking about mainly elderly people who live in very remote places who come to town to get a bit of shopping, enjoy a couple of pints and a chat with friends and then drive home at less than 30 miles an hour. ... These are not the ones causing accidents. What is the alternative for them where no public or other transport is available? Staying at home lonely, staring at the four walls?

Another member of the Kerry County Council, Toireasa Ferris, indicated that she, too, saw rural isolation as a serious issue. She did not, however, agree that this measure was the appropriate solution.  Dalby quotes her:
This is not the way to address this problem. Some in an older generation who were used to having a few pints and driving home may still think it acceptable, and they may be lost to us. But we have to break the link between socializing and drinking for the generations following.

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