Light Reading: One for the Road: Drunk Driving Since 1900

So I’m reading One for the Road: Drunk Driving Since 1900 by Barron Lerner which purports to be a history of drunk driving and the legal response to Driving While Impaired. As a DWI lawyer, this is obviously interesting to me. I’m a little disheartened by the tone of the book, which is not an objective history of drunk driving, but a neoprohibitionist attempt to understand how, given our present enlightened ways, we could’ve ever permitted a more “liberal” attitude to drunk driving. It’s positively historicist!

Anyway, one of the problems with the book is that I know it’s inaccurate on certain specifics I know, such that I’m skeptical of the book as a whole. For instance, the author writes:

Recognizable interest groups began to register opinions on this issue fairly quickly. Of course, alcohol was very much in the news at this time. The first two decades of the twentieth century witnessed the triumph of the temperance movement, which culminated in the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment (also known as the Volstead Act) in 1919.

Wrong! The Eighteenth Amendment was not “also known as the Volstead Act.” The Volstead Act was the enabling legislation that put prohibition into effect through specific enforcement mechanisms.

Now, this might seem to be a minor difference. But if you’re going to write a purportedly authoritative history of drunk driving, then it would be nice if you actually were clear about which legislation did what, and which legal acts had specific legislative or constitutional effect.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.