Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is it just me, or is this idea a little...counterintuitive?

Sometimes you just have to wonder what people are thinking.

I ran into a story over on NBC News online which reports that a county in Ireland is proposing that some people be allowed to drive after drinking up to the equivalent of three pints of beer, so long as they stick to rural roads that cannot be driven on over a speed of about 25 or 30 miles per hour.

The Kerry County Council passed a motion to that effect by a five-vote to three margin, with seven abstentions.

The reason for the proposal? It's supposed to be meant to combat depression in people who live alone in rural areas by letting them come out to the local pub and hang out with their friends and still be able to drive home after drinking. Danny Healy-Rae, the council member who introduced the proposal (and who happens to be a pub owner - go figure) cited the incidence of depression and of drinking alone at home as reasons for his idea.

Healy-Rae said of his proposal, "It would allow these people to meet with their friends and neighbors and to discuss the topics of the day, the price of cattle and whatever."

Fair enough. As someone who doesn't get to get out of the house and socialize as much as I'd like, I can appreciate that being able to get together with friends for a night out is a good thing.

But it raises one question in my mind: "Is it absolutely necessary to drink alcohol in order to hang with friends?" Now, understand, I don't have any problem with people drinking. I don't drink much, but I do enjoy a beer from time to time. But I also have never found it is necessary to drink to have a good time.

I imagine that some people reading this will think I am horribly out of step with contemporary culture, or that I'm some sort of bluenose who wants to impose some sort of abstinence-based way of life on other people. Believe me, that isn't the case.

I repeat: I'm fine with people drinking if they wish.

I don't know about Irish culture (I'm not willing to fall back on the stereotypes of the drunken Irishman), but I know that drinking to have fun is deeply ingrained in much of American culture. But I have to say that I just don't understand the idea that you have to at least have a buzz, or you're really not having fun.

Anyway, aren't there other ways to get these rural residents out to the pub without having to give them permission to drive after drinking? Couldn't several friends to out together, in one vehicle, with one being the designated driver? I mean, the same person doesn't have to take that responsibility every time they go out. I can't see how it would be that difficult for the pubs to serve non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic drinks to accomodate the chosen non-drinker for the evening. Or, couldn't the pub - or the local council - hire a driver to safely pick up and deliver back home those isolated people who want to drink? Call it a cost of safely doing business.

To be fair, most government officials in Ireland, including the country's transport minister, are firmly opposed to Healy-Rae's proposal, with the mayor of Kerry, Terry O'Brien, calling allowing people behind the wheel after drinking "absolute lunacy". Additionally, the county council reportedly does not have the power to enact the proposal unilaterally.

I wonder what you all think about this. Am I overreacting? Or is the idea of letting drivers loose on rural roads after drinking because otherwise they might get depressed, a little over the top?

No comments: