June 30, 2002 11:00 pm

Some people wink and nod about drinking and driving. But it is deadly serious, as the families and friends of the more than 16,000 people a year who die in alcohol-related crashes in America will attest. The candlelight vigils seemingly stretch end to end in this sorry tribute to our inability to drive responsibly.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is taking aim at the problem. MADD is starting a new campaign to educate the public and hopefully reduce the deaths. MADD wants stronger enforcement of drunken-driving laws, including more severe penalties against repeat offenders. MADD also wants more sobriety checkpoints and more work to curb underage drinking.

LET'S BE CLEAR: The battle to wake up the public and politicians from complacency is difficult. But it can be done. The billboard campaign done locally was effective in putting a face on the victims of drunken driving. The victims are people just like you and me. Our neighbors and friends.

Drivers need education. They should realize reaction times and decision-making skills decline with the first drink, rather than just when one reaches the legal limit.

Local law enforcement can help too. It should beef up efforts to keep drunken drivers off the highways. And drivers, for their part, should consider the consequences, remember that our shared obligations are more important than individual rights, and not drive when drinking. What we need are fewer candlelight vigils and more common sense.


"Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" — a sensationally popular television quiz show just two years ago — has fallen from favor. It's final show in the series was aired on ABC Thursday.

Why did this show, which gave contestants a chance to walk away with $1 million in pre-tax dollars, lose in the audience ratings war?

The ABC show featured warm and witty Regis Philbin as its host. The questions were interesting in that they ranged from easy to extremely challenging. (Anyone who had been awake for two months or more should have been able to answer the first five questions.)

THE SHOW LOST audience because it failed to consistently crank out $1 million prize winners. It seems that most of the big winners came in the first season. Were all the extremely smart bunnies of America weeded out that first year?

"Millionaire" will be back as an occasional primetime special. It also will be in syndication with another host, Meredith Vieira. We hope the show with Philbin can stage a comeback sometime soon, perhaps as a summer-only series.

A simple rule change in the game could help. If a person reaches the $250,000 question (only three correct answers away from the $1 million prize), he or she could be awarded an extra lifeline — their choice of asking the audience, 50-50 (in which two answers out of four are eliminated) or another phone a friend.

The concept of the "Millionaire" series was fine. The audience could not be expected, however, to hang in there when million-dollar winners were so few and far between.