THE BREWERS and distillers of America want you to know how much you can drink in Maryland before you'd be judged a drunken driver.
It's a seasonal advisory that we can take in a positive spirit. The distillers want to protect us as we welcome the new year. If they're also after an image of responsibility, that's fine, too.
The industry's Century Council will provide an "interactive bilingual mini-CD ROM to educate users on the mechanisms of blood alcohol concentration." Age, weight, sex, type of drinks and duration of drinking can be fed into a formula that shows how long it will take you to get soused, dangerous and arrested.
The council's high-tech educational program toured Texas over the past two months in a colorful traveling van. Commercials are also telling the distillers' story. A TV documentary is coming.
Surely this campaign has its value.
But Mothers Against Drunk Driving has a simpler approach. That group wants you to know how much you can drink -- not before you're illegal, but before you are a driving menace to yourself and others.
Virtually any alcohol consumption, says MADD, impairs reflexes. Above all, don't think legal limits are based on the impact of alcohol on one's ability to drive. The legal limits aren't set by doctors but by legislators who are loath to impose tighter restrictions.
No need to be confused. Forget the physiology and the formulas (though they are informative and shocking). Don't drink and drive.
The Century Council's release says that there is "universal public awareness that excessive drinking may impair the motor skills and judgment necessary to drive an automobile safely." MADD suggests these corrections: strike "excessive" and change "may" to will. So, let us toast the Century Council and MADD -- and let us all do so with the confidence imparted by a designated driver or by the knowledge that we are already at home. Not "realistic"? Another snare and delusion.
As long as we think it's not realistic to stop drinking and driving we will continue to produce deep heartache and new leadership for an organization (MADD) that would prefer to go out of business.