because I said I would
September 6, 2013 12:50 PM   Subscribe

because I said I would is a website run by Alex Sheen. It's dedicated to the memory of his father, whose legacy to his son was the importance of keeping one's promises to oneself and to others. Alex sends promise cards to anyone in the world who wants them-- simple pieces of paper on which to write a pledge or commitment, a way to stay true to your word. Last month, Alex received a message from a young man with a unique confession, and decided to reach out to him.
posted by bayani (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
His goal is to raise awareness about the terrible consequences that drunk driving can have on innocent people.

Are there really people out there at this point that don't know this?

We're totally willing to suspend the Bill of Rights for two things. A war on terrorism and protecting children from drunk drivers. Our management of both is about equally effective.

A .08 alcohol limit and SR-22 insurance is enough of a deterrent for me. I don't need checkpoints and youtube videos to realize it's a bad idea. Find me one drunk that actually didn't know it wasn't a good idea going in.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:02 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've never heard of the promise card thing until this post. What an absolutely wonderful idea. And he's put so much thought into the little things, like only using black and white (because keeping a promise is a black and white thing) and using the Georgia font because of a lyric in a song his dad loved. Neat, neat person.
posted by jbickers at 1:03 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Neat, neat person.

He has some controversy as well. Basically it boils down to the fact that many see him as an attention whore. He promised kids a trip to Disneyland, but failed to account for travel and chaperones and such (if I remember correctly), so reddit bailed him out. I don't remember the specifics, but if you pop over to reddit and see his posts there you'll find a lot of people that aren't exactly fans.

He interjects himself into situations where he'll get attention.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:11 PM on September 6, 2013

His other projects may be suspect, I have no idea, but this is a good thing. Drunk driving is one of the worst things that nice normal people do. This video will definitely prevent someone from doing it a lot more than more laws or cheesy tv commercials.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:14 PM on September 6, 2013

I saw this on reddit a few months ago. This has definitely become a reddit pet project, if it didn't start out that way.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:18 PM on September 6, 2013

What actually prevents drunk driving is designated drivers and practical tips for getting the keys away from drunks, research shows. Although this type of thing can enforce norms against it, which is important, if you don't provide practical ways of getting drinkers home safely as well, it doesn't really work.
posted by Maias at 1:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are there really people out there at this point that don't know this?

Someone I know got picked up for drunk driving recently and their reaction was to rant about how he can't have been really drunk (he blew 0.11) and even if he was the police officer was using the dispatch system while driving which is just as bad and even drunk he would be a better driver than almost any asshole on the road anyway and everyone knows the police only pick up drunk drivers to fill quotas and make money, it's not like it's actually a big deal. And the group of 8-10 people we were with all nodded along. I left, because I couldn't handle confronting everyone and starting a fight, but I'm pretty sure I should have started the fight anyway.
posted by jacalata at 2:02 PM on September 6, 2013 [12 favorites]

Speaking as someone who was dumb enough to drive drunk nearly fifteen years ago and got (rightfully) busted for it, yes, people do know this. But a lot of times they don't care. They think of themselves as not being THAT drunk, or "it's only a few blocks to my house so I'll be really careful," or any number of stupid reasons to justify such reckless behavior. I know I did.

So suspicious actions/etc aside, I will always welcome another lesson to remind people to not drive drunk.
posted by Kitteh at 2:10 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would argue that alternative transportation options are important in combating drunk driving but they (or the lack thereof) are not the driving force behind the problem. Drunk driving and inattentive diving and record driving and neglegent driving all kill people (more than any other violent activity in the developed world) and the root cause isn't lack of a DD.

Traffic enforcement, 'real penalties' (check your code for charges laid against those who kill with anything other than a car), and hard public shaming would go a lot farther to ameliorating the problem than offering a ride to a drunk who doesn't want it. Or couldn't be bothered to do a minimum of forward planning to avoid killing someone.

The problem changes a bit if we agree to view 'getting into a vehicle after having a few' for what it probably is: a gruesome murder/suicide that just hasn't quite happened yet. At the very least evidence of a catastrophic lack of judgment that should probably carry consequences elsewhere in life.
posted by mce at 2:12 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

The problem with seriously addressing dui is like the problem with driving while using a cell phone.

The people responsible for seriously addressing the problem almost ALL do it.

That is driving under the influence and or driving while using their cell phones.

They do not see themselves as risks. Only those irresponsible 'others'.
posted by notreally at 4:01 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are there really people out there at this point that don't know this?

Yes there are people who don't treat drunk driving seriously.

A good friend and coworker taught me this lesson. He was telling me about his friend whose life was recently ruined because he killed three people while drunk driving. His was treating it like an honest mistake and terrible luck, and talking about how easily it could have happened to him or anyone else he knows. I could not fathom it.

When I confronted him on it, I remember him joking and saying, "Oh come on. Everyone's gotten into their car a bit drunk and gotten home fine. Don't tell me you haven't." And he didn't believe me when I said I didn't.

I think he thought my horrified reaction was faked or something, or he just never really ran into anyone with such a clear, strict rule about drinking and driving.

Anyway, this is from a really empathetic, progressive, and educated guy and it kind of broke my heart a bit to know that some people really just see it as one of those things everyone does. It was like on the level of smoking pot to him - illegal but in a "well everyone does it" way. It was a pretty big wake-up call to me. I had a friend die in middle school thanks to a drunk driver, so for me it's more like getting drunk and then playing with a loaded gun - you just DO NOT DO IT.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 4:07 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

I remember him joking and saying, "Oh come on. Everyone's gotten into their car a bit drunk and gotten home fine. Don't tell me you haven't."

This is Wisconsin drinking culture in a nutshell. I probably have known literally dozens of people who have driven drunk. I don't do it, I know the dangers, and I still have a difficult time realizing that it's not this way everywhere. I honestly didn't really get it until I met my husband; he was horrified that DUIs are no big deal here. The dean of a local university was just arrested for going 14 miles the wrong way down an interstate. It was his 3rd DUI. The state's Attorney General was arrested for drunk driving and kept her job!

There are all kinds of things that are "normal" in their specific cultures that are abhorrent to outsiders, and you cannot assume someone from that culture should "just know" that it's wrong. Social norms have to be taught.
posted by desjardins at 5:28 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

The problem with seriously addressing dui is like the problem with driving while using a cell phone. The people responsible for seriously addressing the problem almost ALL do it.

Not in BC. Also, we have high seatbelt compliance. To make up for it, everyone speeds and red lights are frequently treated as optional.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:50 PM on September 6, 2013

I have seen harsh penalties make a difference. A heavy drinking acquaintance of mine got arrested for DUI a while back. First offense, just over the limit. Jail for a least a night, heavy fines. Some community service maybe? And a suspended driver's liscense for 6 months (or longer, I can't remember). That was 6 months of taking the bus or bicyling to work, of not being able to call on clients, of not being able to run out to the grocery store, etc. And it was awful for him.

He is in that group of people who thinks he was fine driving a little buzzed and has a little bitterness about the whole thing, but to his great credit, he sucked it up, did the time and strictly reformed his ways. He drinks now in his own home or if someone else is driving. He absolutely will not take the chance of a second arrest and he preaches sober driving.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:31 PM on September 6, 2013

Penalties do have something to do with it. Illinois has much tougher penalties and they also have a LOT less drunk driving arrests.

Wisconsin - 28798 arrests in 2011
Illinois - 3619 arrests in 2011

Now, some of this could be different enforcement tactics, but Illinois has over twice the population of Wisconsin so you'd expect the numbers to be somewhat comparable. Yet Wisconsin has eight times the number of arrests.

The first conviction in Illinois results in a minimum one year loss of full driving privileges and a possible imprisonment of one year. This actually made me laugh out loud (in horror) because the first conviction in WI is not even a crime. It's a traffic ticket for $150-300. The 3rd conviction in Illinois is a felony! You have to have 5 or 6 to qualify for that in Wisconsin. That's why it's really, truly seen as NBD here.
posted by desjardins at 7:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yes there are people who don't treat drunk driving seriously.

That wasn't the point or the question. The question was is anyone really truly ignorant of the dangers of drunk driving at this point? I say every drunk that gets behind the wheel knows they shouldn't. They are choosing to ignore these messages. Another message to ignore will serve nothing.

With PSAs, MADD, billboards, signs in bars, posters, school groups, etc., no one really needs further reminders. These messages, and I include this video, only serve to make the people making them feel better. The efficacy is also proven to be nil. they are feel good campaigns that serve nothing. Find me one example, one person, that says, "I didn't drive drunk because I saw a video that made me realize it was bad." They already know it's bad.

We lose more people to driving while texting—or driving tired—than driving while drunk, yet the penalties for the first two are no where near as bad as drunk driving.

We put up with un-Constitutional stops and searches because it "protects the children", but this kind of logic is exactly why Petter Watts is now a US felon.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:18 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Find me one example, one person, that says, "I didn't drive drunk because I saw a video that made me realize it was bad."

Okay, I'll fess up, I don't look at text messages while driving anymore because of this video. Yes, it was that precise video that got me to stop. I knew intellectually it was wrong, but the video was a visceral punch in the gut. I also don't text anyone when I'm not driving but I think they might be (e.g. on their way home from work).

Humans aren't really that great on making decisions based on intellectual reasoning. Why do charities show pictures of cute, wide-eyed children? We already know that people go hungry. A 30 second commercial that tugs at the heartstrings can make more difference in gathering donations than a 100 page PDF full of statistics.
posted by desjardins at 7:28 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

The problem changes a bit if we agree to view 'getting into a vehicle after having a few' for what it probably is: a gruesome murder/suicide that just hasn't quite happened yet.

Agreed. I've commented here before that I think anyone who drives drunk should be charged with attempted murder.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:42 AM on September 7, 2013

"Agreed. I've commented here before that I think anyone who drives drunk should be charged with attempted murder."

I sort of agree, but I can say that prior to addressing my problem drink the first few years of my 20's I drank and drove at least a few occasions. I was the most avoidant of doing it of many of my friends and I think there was only one occasion that I actually drove drunk in which someone was literally telling me to drive and we had a huge argument about it but I wound up doing it anyway. I personally had a policy of not driving after drinking ANY AMOUNT because I feel like the point of drinking (for me and my friends) was to have a buzz and enjoy the social lubricant. If you have a buzz you should not drive. Basically the whole idea of going out, drinking any alcohol at all, and then driving, is a cultural trend that I think should stop. Most people don't think they are drunk after "a few beers". So I think to combat drunk driving, combatting mildly buzzed driving is really important because I think what we have now is not working. We basically has a system that tells people "You can legally have a few drinks and then drive. Just use your judgement"

Well people rationalize and don't have have good judgement about this. I don't know that we need to make it illegal to drive after having ANY alcohol, (reinforcing this would be hard and people might get reactive about it), but I think social consciousness wise this really should be the goal. If you want to go out and drink, just plan not to drive at all. Or plan to just stay at home. Also drunken slumber parties are fun?

I think that heavy drinking as a social trend for healthy people is not a sign of overall health/judgement in a population.

Even when I drank too much 21-23 I tended to refuse to drive after drinking but it meant planning to spend the night wherever I was staying because my drunk friends were always too drunk to drive too.

Drinking culture can be very toxic and what is considered "normal" drinking behavior by a lot of people, while is normal, is not very healthy by my standards. I pretty much think getting drunk is itself immoral unless you're like in a planned space where you're being supervised because you're planning to remove your ability to have judgement- that's just not a good thing.

The whole culture that sees getting drunk as ok, and the harmful behaviors of drunk people as excusable because of being drunk is a really toxic social trend.

I'm a fan of harm reduction and I do think we can create better structures even around problem drinking to ensure that people who need to get drunk have spaces where they can literally get drunk, be supervised, and not drive anywhere. I don't think if you "NEED" to get drunk it's a very good sign of health but sometimes people are living lives and coping with pains that alcohol is the best available solution. Harm reduction would mean making sure that alternatives to lifes pain other than alcohol are available to people (therapy, financial safety nets, health care, supportive communties etc), and if people can't make it work with those alternatives there are safe ways to use your alcohol etc without letting the destruction that follows binge drinking to spread onto people around you.
posted by xarnop at 6:11 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also I think young adults are overall more likely to be stupid and in the process of learning how to not be. We want to be more understanding of young adult's stupidity but to be honest, I think we need to acknowledge that since we know young people are often "understandably" stupid and in the process of learning to have judgement and understand consequences, they should be more supervised. I know this is not a popular idea because I agree with the fact that we need to help teens and young adults have opportunities to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions, but I also think we are assuming permitting people without the judgement to fully understand their actions to do really harmful things in the world and eat the consequences themselves, however what happens is that it's often people around those making bad decisions who suffer.

I don't think that college students are very capable of having good judgement about this and honestly question whether letting them have cars is a good idea. I know there's pro's and con's and drastic legal actions are not always the best idea, but really, I think most people who have erred on this made most of those errors while in highschool/college and the rest of the drunk driving stats are covered by people who go on to have a serious drinking problem or never grew capable of thinking through their actions.

I don't know how accurate this stat is but the first one I found seems to indicate I'm right.
"Driving under the influence of alcohol was associated with age in 2010. The rate was highest among persons aged 21 to 25 (23.4 percent). An estimated 5.8 percent of 16 or 17 year olds and 15.1 percent of 18 to 20 year olds reported driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year. Beyond age 25, these rates showed a general decline with increasing age.

(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings.” September 2011.)
- See more at:"
posted by xarnop at 6:27 AM on September 7, 2013

I don't believe this is sincere. I think he is angling for "contrition." He knows he is going to jail. He killed someone while driving shitfaced. No sympathy here.
posted by spitbull at 7:29 AM on September 7, 2013

The availability of other options is a huge factor in whether people drive drunk or not.

I grew up in a city with excellent transit, and good 24-hour buses. Nearly everyone in the metro area can get home by transit after going to a bar or a party - and so everyone I know took transit, and you could get plastered and it was okay. No one I know has ever been charged for drunk driving. No one I know has been in an accident with alcohol as a factor. (And I grew up in a suburb of the city, so I know people who drive regularly).

But when I talk to people from small towns and rural areas, they talk about how they know so many people who drive drunk. They are more likely to know someone who has been in an accident or died due to drunk driving. There just aren't a lot of ways to get home otherwise.

Education is great, but places without transit need subsidized taxis or something. There used to be cheap taxis in small towns - and the only way to keep people from driving drunk is by making sure they have an alternative, and preferably an easy and cheap one.
posted by jb at 9:02 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Education is great, but places without transit need subsidized taxis or something

I grew up in a such a place. I moved.
I also don't drink (personal choice) and a neurologist isn't going to let me have a licence until I can show that my absence seizures are better controlled. I have 3 or 4 a year, they last less than 10 seconds a piece and I generally have a pretty good idea that they're coming.

Don't get me wrong: I didn't drive much (well, not at all for more than 10 years) before getting the diagnosis and I'm not really pushing for a licence reinstatement now. On the other hand 15 seconds of zoning out per year is enough to make me effectively uninsurable. Every driver who's missed too much sleep, who's shouting on their phone, who's looking back at their kids, who's riding with a dog in their lap, who day dreams at a traffic light, who's road rage leaves them too angry to shoulder check each and every one of them experience more distraction every day than can be accounted for by my medical diagnosis.

I have precisely _zero_ empathy for those who just can't be bothered to pull their heads out of their collective asses to plan ahead or make more socially conscious decisions. Seriously if the reason you (not you in particular, but people in general) get behind the wheel inebriated is that it just wasn't easy enough or cheap enough to get home from the bar, well, fuck you.


Come back and tell me that when I'm stripping my rain gear off from having grocery shopped on my bike in february. Tell my that to my neighbours, the majority of them are simply too poor to maintain a personal vehicle. Tell that to those of us who will never have the option to drive but aren't blind and don't have access to subsidized transit.

We make do every day.
posted by mce at 9:23 PM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it makes people feel better/worse the driver, Matthew Cordle, was charged today.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:29 PM on September 9, 2013

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