Problem of drinking while driving old as the world

| May 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Dr. Trish Prosser
U.S. Army Public Health Command

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Drunk driving actually began before the invention of cars.

As soon as a person climbed onto the back of another animal, there must have been some drunken horse, camel and elephant riders.

Drinking also played a large role in going to sea.

Alcohol has played an important part in human civilization for a long time. Historians believe that slaves building the Great Pyramid at Giza drank about 1-1/2 gallons of beer a day.

A daily task in Egyptian households was brewing beer, while pharaohs preferred to drink wine. It is easy to imagine drunken chariot riders in Rome, and there is no doubt that some of Hannibal’s men rode drunkenly on elephants into battle.

The collection, processing and distribution of water actually developed in the 20th century. Before then, a constant source of fresh and clean water was harder to come by. Stored water without modern techniques quickly stagnates.

One hundred years ago, diseases like cholera and typhoid were spread through contaminated water, killing hundreds of thousands. Alcohol was used as an alternative to water because most germs and viruses that lived in water could not survive in alcohol. It comes as no surprise that alcohol was widely used as medicine to kill germs and dull pain.

The first actual drunk driving arrest was made in 1897 in London when a man ran his car into a building. Before this time and for many decades after, automobiles and their owners were not regulated in any way.

In the U.S., it was not until 1910 that the first drunk driving laws were adopted in New York, but these laws merely stated that one should not drive a motor vehicle while inebriated, which was not clearly defined.

In 1939, Indiana introduced the first blood alcohol content, or BAC, level to determine if a driver was drunk. This level was set at .15, which is nearly twice today’s .08 national legal limit.

In the 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, came to prominence; ignition interlock devices began to be court ordered and the national minimum legal drinking age was set at 21.

It was not until July 2004 that the entire U.S. adopted a universal BAC level of .08 as the national standard for drinking and driving.

Army Regulation 600-85 states, “abuse of alcohol … is inconsistent with Army Values.”

For thousands of years, alcohol has been an important part of our culture and our existence. While there has been an awareness that drunkenness is a bad thing, moderation has been tolerated due to the fact that, at times, in our history alcohol was literally seen to be as important as water.

Our modern life is so different from that of an Egyptian slave or a Roman charioteer or a medieval farmer, and yet, our attitudes towards alcohol largely remain the same.

Drunk driving has been around a long time, but the common message seems to be that if you have to go somewhere, don’t overindulge.

So rethink that drink!

(Editor’s Note: April is Alcohol Awareness Month.)

Confidential program protects Soldiers’ privacy, favorable actions

Under a pilot program, Soldiers who meet specific criteria can now self-refer themselves to the Confidential Alcohol Treatment and Education Program, or CATEP, without notifying their commanders.

When Soldiers enter CATEP treatment, they “are not vulnerable to suspension of favorable actions or subject to adverse personnel actions strictly because of their enrollment” in CATEP, part of the Army Substance Abuse Program, or ASAP, according to the new policy.

CATEP treatment plans may last anywhere from a few weeks to a year, all with the aim to meet the challenges of military readiness while supporting Soldier and family well-being.

ASAP is open Monday-Friday to support Soldiers:
•7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.
•4:30–8 p.m., Monday-Thursday, for confidential treatment.
Call 433-8700 or 433-8708.

Other Resources

For more information on preventing drinking and driving, visit:,, and

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Category: Army News Service, Community, Health, Safety

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