Drunk Driving in 1910 – Yes, They Did It, and Here’s Proof

Your Hump-Day Recess

Drunk driving has been with us a long time – about as long as driving has. It’s rare to find photographic evidence of it, but here it is, albeit somewhat contrived.

drunk-driving-1910
(click to enlarge)

This postcard was sent to a Miss A. Lyniss of Moscow, New York (now Leicester) in 1910. It features four party animals of the Taft administration chugging down booze in a car. The caption reads, “A blow out.” By coincidence, 1910 was the year New York became the first state to pass a law prohibiting “driving while intoxicated.”

Of course, the post card was meant as a jest, but it’s doubtful the joke would have meaning unless people did indeed drink and drive back then. In fact, the practice was already seen as a public safety problem, though it would not be for another 17 years that the first “breath analyzer” would be invented to aid law enforcement in cracking down on impaired driving. Our infographic on the history of drunk driving is here.

The accurate, reliable device known as the breathalyzer would not hit the market for well over 40 years, and it would be another 40 after that until the technology would be applied to the ignition interlock, which prevented a vehicle from starting if the driver had been drinking.

However, the most important development since Miss Lyniss received this post card has been the change in the public’s perception of drunk driving. Not that people don’t still find humor in it at times. But organizations like MADD and government agencies like NHTSA have brought home how serious the problem is. With a few exceptions, it’s been decades since drunk driving provided fodder for humor.

Some day kids will ask, “What’s a post card?” With luck, they’ll also ask, “What’s a drunk driver?”

Note: The car in the photo is a 1909 Reo Touring Car.

Your Hump Day Recess: Every Wednesday LifeSafer brings you something a little different, related to the worlds of road safety, to ease your progress over Hump Day and through the week.
Previous Hump Days: a German Ignition Interlock spoof from 1960, our Top 10 Worst Crash Tests, a different kind of Anti-DUI message, Budweiser’s dogged anti-DUI campaign, How Not to Dodge a Parking Ticket, the world’s worst traffic jams, a dramatic buzzed driving PSA , an offbeat ad from New Zealand, the world’s worst car modification, Vince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies, some excellent Soviet anti-drunk-driving posters. a lesson on how buzzed driving can ruin your love life, South Australia to Drunk Drivers: Grow Up!, a woman calls 911 to report herself for DUI, Felix the Cat and Drunk Driving,  DUIs who crash vintage cars – (ouch!), Woman Unwittingly Creates Self-Driving Car, A Brilliant PSA from Australia, a Road Safety Message in a Vodka Bottle, a PSA about binge drinking that is decidedly “meh” and – horrors! – Drunk Driver Crashes $4 Million Car