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How the attitude towards drinking and driving changed in the 1980s, Phoenix, Arizona

As someone who learned to drive in the 1970s, I often consider myself the first generation of people who cared about safety behind the wheel. Not everyone my age did, of course, but my generation got to see movies during Driver's Ed that showed what happened to people when they wrecked their car. It's been a long time since I've seen those images, and I still remember them vividly.

The attitude up to that time had been to hope that you would be lucky. Wearing seat belts was not cool, there were no air bags, and if someone died behind the wheel, or was maimed, it was just considered bad luck. And as the nation's roads got more and more crowded, a lot more people were having bad luck.

Of course drinking and driving was common. The laws really weren't all that stringent, and if someone wrecked while drunk, it was just "bad luck". Seat belts had been in cars since the mid 1960s, and side-impact protection started in the 1970s, but that wasn't enough. A lot of people were dying. And attitudes started to change.

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By the 1980s, businesses that served alcohol and then turned loose a bunch of drunk drivers on the road for the police, and hospitals, to deal with began to be pressured to do something about the death and destruction. It just wasn't funny anymore. Mothers Against Drunk Driving started in the 1980s, and the days of laughing off drunk driving were coming to an end.

The ad at the top of this post, from Minder Binders in Tempe in 1984, represented the attempts that bars were making to try to "sober up" their clientele with coffee and hot cocoa at midnight. It may seem pathetic now, but it was a beginning.

Times have changed.

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