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Mobile Devices: The New “One for the Road”?


Have you ever seen an older movie or TV show where a person who is clearly intoxicated gets into a car and drives? If you’re like most people today, it probably looks absurdly out-of-place. Yet as little as 40 or 50 years ago, people thought nothing of having “one for the road”, or even of enjoying a beer while they drove.

Evolving Attitudes on Drunk Driving

Of course, it was against the law to drive while under the influence of alcohol when such scenes were filmed. In fact, New York was the first state to outlaw drunk driving, in 1910—so such laws had been in place for decades before popular culture caught up to the fact that drinking and driving is a bad idea.

For the most part, people rationalized their habit of driving after having had a few drinks, until not all that long ago. “Oh,” a person might say, “I only had a few.” Or, “I’m not going that far; I’ll be fine.” Only after years of harsh penalties and societal pressure from grassroots organizations have our attitudes toward driving under the influence evolved to where we stand today.

Will We Evolve on Mobile Device Use?

In recent years, we’ve seen many parallels between texting and other mobile device usage and driving under the influence of alcohol. Both rank high on the list of easily preventable causes of injury, and both have seen laws restricting their use behind the wheel. It didn’t take many years of data before local, state and federal legislators began to take notice and write laws to help keep our roads safe.

Another, more troubling correlation is that despite recent laws prohibiting mobile device use while driving, it’s still an accepted part of our popular culture—much as “tipsy” driving was in the mid-twentieth century. Let’s hope it doesn’t take several generations before our current casual disregard for texting while driving laws evolves into the respect we’ve finally gained for the impact of driving while intoxicated.

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