I think it’s safe to say that drinking and driving has acquired a larger social stigma than it ever had before. Historically, it was not a biggie when tallying one’s significant lapses in judgment, (armed robbery, kidnapping, not recycling) but nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would even hint that hopping into their car after a night out at the bar was a good idea. Without a doubt the many people and organizations out there dedicated to making drinking and driving an unacceptable choice have done a good job.

I still think the best anti-drinking and driving ad I’ve ever seen was that old one showing a POV through a car windshield of someone driving through the city while beer glasses are placed one after another directly in front of the field of view, progressively blurring the viewer’s vision.  First glass, not perfect but I can still see. Second glass, getting hazy. Add a third glass and it’s starting to look like trouble. By the fourth glass you’re ready for a crash and then bang! It’s perfect because it picked up on the most basic thing at issue. When drunk, most people are certain they can drive because anything has to be easier than walking. So they figure going real slowwww will make everything okay. Well, the visual of that ad lays it out clearly. Whether you think you can drive or not, things get a little fuzzier with each drink until eventually you’re driving with the equivalent of a fogged up windshield. And when that happens, you’re going to hit something. Great ad.

As the years passed the old ads gave way to new ones. Audience attention spans continually demand new product and the charity machines that raise the money need new ways to spend it, or they risk watching it dry up altogether. Good news and charity appeals seldom work for long, so it had to get worse, much, much worse.

Looking at some of the current ads and you’d almost believe every third car on the road has a drunken moron behind the wheel with death in his eye. These ads are more in your face and graphic all the time. Harsh and realistic car accidents, blood splatter and bodies lying around, real police footage, you name it. The plan was to shock, and while it has been done quite well, I fear we are quickly reaching the point of no return.

You must have seen that ad where we see a guy sitting on a park bench identified as “your best friend.” Then, the camera swings to show a pretty girl walk up and be identified as “your girlfriend.” The two embrace, then kiss and finally walk away, obviously in love. As the camera finishes its pull back it reveals “you,” bitter and sad, trapped in a hospital room and confined to a wheelchair. Honestly, this made me think more about suicide than drunk driving. What kind of jerk must this guy’s buddy be? Did his girl ever really love him? How does the fun house of horrors this ad creates even have room for drunk driving? It’s way over the top.

Believe it or not, the next one takes things even further. The pictures show happy shots, all family and friends, the “good life.” Until we realize that the “good life” was the past and that now, in the present, “we” are in jail. And just to ensure “we” know it’s not Club Fed time but real “bad” prison time being served, two scary dudes from the cell block give us the “freaky eye” while flipping their tongues and licking their lips at us.

Are you kidding me? It’s one thing to tell not to drink and drive but now I have to be threatened with overt suggestions of forced sodomy? I mean come on. I’m watching this ad with my children in the room. Like I need to explain this one.

“Daddy, why is the man licking his lips at the other man?”

“Well, uh, he wants to share some ice cream with him.”

“What kind of ice cream?”

“Honey! I think it’s time the kids went to bed.”

Has it really come down to this? Will scary images of prison rape “scare me straight?”

If this is the path we’re on then get ready to see the next generation of drunk driving public service announcements brought to you from the creative souls behind the “Saw” or “Hostel” franchises. Can promises of creatively vindictive disembowelment or coupons offering castration with rusty tools to all drunken offenders really be that far behind?

Hold my keys because I think I need a drink.

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