September 10: The first drunk driver gets arrested on this date in 1897

Every nostalgia-tinted look back through history inevitably loses key bits of context to time. For example: Many of our ancestors lived and worked much of their lives drunk. What we call coffee breaks used to be the "elevenses" when 19th-century Americans would down corn liquor. And on this date in 1897 -- less than a month after London taxi drivers began using their first electric-powered cabs -- one George Smith smashed his into a building, becoming the first person arrested for drunk driving.

More than a century later, drunk driving stubbornly remains the single deadliest threat on American highways, claiming 13,000 lives a year. From road blocks to talking urinal cakes, enforcement and public appeals have hit a point of diminishing returns such that federal auto safety regulators are researching alcohol monitors built into vehicles. As William Faulkner wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past."