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One for the Road: Drunk Driving since 1900 Hardcover – September 7, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1421401904 ISBN-10: 1421401908 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


Dr. Lerner’s account of the long relationship between the automobile and the beverage―on both a corporate and a consumer level―is dogged, comprehensive and occasionally quite surprising.

(Abigail Zuger, M.D. New York Times)

In the libertarian society of the US, Americans acknowledge their rights, which include driving automobiles and consuming alcoholic beverages. Innocuous independently, combined they have plagued the country for over 100 years.


Well written and passionately argued, the text explores how Americans' historic "love of alcohol, love of driving, and more abstractly, love of freedom and individual liberties" spawned a complex, centurylong, and at times self-defeating battle with drunk drivers.

(David Blanke Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences)


Lerner has done a beautiful job of tracing the degree to which celebrity patients have reflected and shaped the modern American understanding of doctors, patients, and illness.

(New England Journal of Medicine)

Lerner has created a powerful prism through his thoughtful exploration of celebrity illness, highlighting societal and cultural forces that widely affect public and private health care decisions.

(Journal of the American Medical Association)

We can learn quite a bit about our society, culture, and values from the way celebrities' illnesses are publicly portrayed... Lerner is at his best when he uses his considerable narrative skills to place these stories into their broader historical, cultural, and ethical contexts.

(American Journal of Bioethics)

In Lerner's capable hands, these dozen stories in their retelling are both colorfully dramatic narratives, ripped from the headlines (as the saying now goes) and also probing samples of historically specific contingencies and shifting attitudes.

(Bulletin of the History of Medicine)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (September 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421401908
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421401904
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barron H. Lerner is a Professor of Medicine and Population Health at the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Lerner received his M.D. in 1986 and his Ph.D. in history in 1996. His book, The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America, published by Oxford University Press, received the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine and was named one of the 26 most notable books of 2001 by the American Library Association. Dr. Lerner has published extensively in scholarly journals and contributes essays to the the Science Times section of The New York Times, the Times' "Well" blog, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He has also appeared on numerous NPR broadcasts, including "Fresh Air," "All Things Considered" and "Science Friday." Dr. Lerner's latest book, "The Good Doctor: A Father, A Son and the Evolution of Medical Ethics," was published by Beacon Press in May 2014. You can follow Dr. Lerner at or @barronlerner on Twitter.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Conner VINE VOICE on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
No one approaches drunk driving policy in a vacuum. Each person has a background and a bias, and the most impressive part of this book is that Dr. Lerner is quite clear about his bias and then tries hard to craft a balanced history book that will help inform readers from other backgrounds. Dr. Lerner is an expert in public health issues, and he writes a passionate story of the way that drunk driving (and public perceptions of drunk driving, from media coverage to legislation) has had an impact on public health in the last hundred years. I had a hard time reading this book because of my own personal perspectives, but it does contain a wealth of information, organized in an effective way to tell the story of a nation that is failing to keep its people safe on the roads.

For the first few chapters of this book, Dr. Lerner shares horror stories of the early days of drunk driving, with outrageously lenient sentences for devastating crashes and a pervasive public attitude that drinking and driving wasn't a big deal. As someone born in 1980, I have never lived in a world without TV commercials and special episodes and school assemblies about the dangers of drunk driving, and I was shocked by the way the problem was first viewed. Dr. Lerner follows those stories with thorough chapters on the impact of MADD and related groups, along with the ways that policy objectives and legislation have shifted over the years. The book also has plenty of examples from the European Union to show other paths that have been taken in efforts to keep the roads safe. I learned a great deal from this book, so Dr. Lerner achieved his objective.

My main problems with the book come from its tone. Dr.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Jonsson VINE VOICE on November 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Barron Lerner's book "One for the Road" is a study of the politics, legal policies and procedures of dealing with intoxicated automobile drivers. To my knowledge it is the first academic study dedicated to analyzing the real cost-to the intoxicated driver, to society, and to the victims-of drinking and driving.

As an academic study this book is fascinating. Lerner starts by discussing popular and unpopular conceptions of the person who chooses to drink and drive. Lerner sites incidents of people who chose to drink and drive and their consequences. Initially their consequences are not very severe. Drinking and driving in the early part of the 20th century was seen as an activity done by the carefree and rich-the "Great Gatsby" lot. This did not change despite prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s-a time when Lerner states drinking and driving, with deadly consequences rose rapidly. Only some cases of drinking and driving with fatal consequences received media attention-such as that of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, hit by a car operated by an intoxicated driver in 1949.

Consequences of drinking and driving increased in the late 1970s and 1980s. The establishment of MADD (Mothers against drunk drivers) and RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers) increased laws and regulations around drinking and driving. Driving while intoxicated by society is now seen as something that needs to be punished, rather than as a source of humor (think Dudley Moore in the first "Arthur" movie).

As an alcohol and drug counselor who has worked with hundreds of impaired drivers in counseling, this book helped me see how social groups can cause laws to be changed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D Jones VINE VOICE on January 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is sobering historical assessment of our love affair with drinking and driving. I wish I'd had this book twenty-five years ago as a starting point to discuss the subject intelligently with friends and family. Just so happens a relative used to go to the Pub every Weds night with the boys and get drunk. They'd then drive home under the impression that they were fine, and even so, their chance of getting arrested or causing a collision were nil. This went on for almost twenty years and they did beat the odds. The stats did catch up with them finally and they nearly caused their own death and that of an innocent driver who they collided with. This relative finally died of liver cancer from the drink. Today, if this relative were alive, I'd probably wait outside the pub and call the police when they tried to drive away.

For me and millions of others this subject is personal and not an abstract intellectual exercise. Get this book, read it, think about it, act upon it, and pas it on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C Wahlman VINE VOICE on November 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dr. Barron H. Lerner takes on the daunting challenge of exposing the history America's love of drinking and driving. Both embody the individualism and freedom espoused by everything American. Both show the cultural evolution of the country and our social pastimes. And both also show our inability to see the danger to unchecked freedom when it becomes reckless or excessive.

Dr. Lerner's work takes us through the history of driving and how drinking became entwined in this new found freedom to create something dangerous. Dr. Lerner makes no subtle hints or gestures, he finds the practice to egregious, especially in the face of anecdotes and hard evidence to prove the deadly combination drinking and driving create, but he goes beyond just this obvious point to how this struggle threatens freedom, privacy, and personal responsibility.

Dr. Lerner goes through a variety of sources for discussion, but his main focus seems to be Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the anti-drinking and driving movement and its implications.

I found this book to be enlightening and sad. It is maddening to hear such tragedies, especially for something that is as preventable as driving while impaired. Dr. Lerner sets up a thorough and engaging history. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in this subject matter. I also think this book would be excellent for an academic setting, or for research purposes. I highly recommend "One for the Road."
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One for the Road: Drunk Driving since 1900
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