Here are the figures:

In 1981, 425 men and women on active duty in the U.S. armed forces died in car accidents caused at least in part because they were drunk.

Those deaths cost taxpayers $150 million in medical expenses, disability payments and insurance benefits. That figure doesn't even count the $10,000 it costs to recruit and train a replacement for each dead driver.

Sixty-three percent of all deaths of military personnel in which the victims were 25 or younger were caused by drunken driving.

Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among American military personnel under the age of 40 -- and alcohol was involved in 50 percent of them.

Here, maybe, is the solution:


That's the prescription now being drafted by Dr. John Beary, a former professor at Georgetown University Medical School who is now acting assistant secretary of defense.

The Beary plan: Require every active-duty soldier convicted of drunken driving to affix an orange, glow-in-the-dark bumper sticker to his car, and to keep it there for 30 days. It would read: "Convicted of Drunk Driving."

"Yes," said Dr. Beary, "it's a little like putting criminals in the stocks publicly, the way they did in Williamsburg. The point is very much the same."

Point One: "The sticker would help you and me avoid them on the beltway."

Point Two: "The sticker will increase peer pressure on the soldier by coworkers and the soldier's family. The soldier's not going to like it if his wife has to park a car with the sticker on it at the grocery store."

To me, the idea seems inspired. Because the active-duty military is such a closed community, punishments like this are more easily administered than in the who-are-you-to-tell-me-what-to-do "real world." Any soldier told by his commanding officer to "slap on the Beary bumper sticker or else" won't want to find out what that "or else" might be.

The proposal is scheduled to go to the heads of the uniformed services by "mid- to late summer," Beary said. Bumper stickers for soldiers convicted of [drunken driving] might be policy by the end of the year.

Beary acknowledges that the average GI isn't going to like the idea of being embarrassed in public. But as he points out, "It's better to be embarrassed than to be dead."