September 10, 1897: First drunk driving arrest
You’d think the PSAs about drunk driving are recent phenomena. In fact, the first arrest for drunk driving took place at the turn of the century. And, it happened to a guy on the job.
A beer for the road
Trying to make a living in London was hard back in the day. George Smith made an honest living as a taxi driver. On September 10, 1897, Smith decided to get some beer in his system before his shift. The 25-year-old thought he could do his job with ease, but he was wrong. After a while, he began to lose focus on the task at hand. Smith swerved his vehicle into a building. In court, Smith admitted to having a few drinks before hitting the road. He plead guilty and was forced to pay a measly 25 shillings. At the time, one shilling was worth only 25 cents in America.
The wallet or the slammer?
Years after Smith’s crash, various ways to prevent drunk driving started popping up. In New Jersey, the first drunk driving law was implemented in 1906. Anyone caught intoxicated was slapped with either a fine or jail time. In order to tell if someone is drunk, you’d need the proper equipment. In 1931, Rolla Neil Harger invented the Drunkometer. While it worked for a while, police needed an upgrade. In 1953, police captain Robert Frank Borkenstein created the Breathalyzer.
A safer time today
While drunk driving still happens today, prevention is much easier with rideshare apps. Services like Lyft and Uber have given people a safe ride home. “It is not surprising that ride-sharing services are making a difference, as we know that consumers are using these services as the designated driver,” Governors Highway Safety Association director Russ Martin told CBS News. Thankfully, we all have Smith to congratulate for getting us to this point of safety.