The primary objective of this project, the first social and cultural history of drunk driving, is to understand the limited success of strategies to control what may be the most severe public health problem in the United States. Despite decades of efforts, particularly since the founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1980, drunk drivers, it can be argued, still """"""""get away with murder."""""""" The specific aims of this research are: To document the problem of drunk driving over the past century. To place anti-drunk driving efforts in their social and cultural context. To explore the often lax penalties issued to drunk drivers, including recidivists. To study how society balances the protection of the public's health with drinkers'rights. To use knowledge about historical barriers to help craft more effective and consistent anti-drunk driving strategies. Standard methods in historical research will be employed, beginning with a comprehensive review of the relevant secondary literature, in this case the history of alcoholism and other public health measures in the United States. This review, already underway, has allowed the P.I. to identify gaps in the literature and construct a research hypothesis. He will next perform primary research at a large number of archival sites. These primary sources-including unpublished documents, minutes of meetings and correspondence-will provide crucial information about the successes and failures of past and ongoing anti-drunk driving efforts. The findings will then be crafted into a series of scholarly articles and a book for academic and lay audiences on the historical barriers to efforts to lower the death rate from drunk driving. This project has enormous public health relevance. Despite aggressive efforts to control drunk driving, particularly since 1980, over 15,000 Americans are still killed annually by drunk drivers. These deaths-and even more injuries-occur despite the identification of a large number of proven strategies that could further lower mortality and morbidity. By identifying the historical barriers to more widespread implementation of these approaches, this research will be of benefit to activists, policymakers and legislators concerned with enhancing anti-drunk driving efforts.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Library of Medicine (NLM)
Health Sciences Publication Support Awards (NLM) (G13)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZLM1-ZH-P (O1))
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Vanbiervliet, Alan
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Columbia University (N.Y.)
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
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Bu, Liping; Fee, Elizabeth (2010) Images of health. Unite to fight malaria! Am J Public Health 100:608