One of the articles in my (Dutch) secondary school newspaper had a long list of funny English quotes, e.g. "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like bananas.". There was one quote for which I couldn't figure out the joke:

Don't drink and park; accidents cause people.

Since it's famous enough to be printed on mugs, sweaters and bumper stickers it must be funny, but I don't get it. There might be some innuendo (drinking, causing sexual activities, causing pregnancy) but I don't get the connection with driving (which is implied both by the similarity with "Don't drink and drive", but that slogan doesn't have a second part, and by "park"ing the car).

Is that all there is (and it's just not my type of humour) or am I missing something?

  • 7
    I am sure that many native English speakers will not figure out the meaning either...
    – copper.hat
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


"Park" means to bring a car to a stop in a particular spot, but a secondary colloquial meaning of "park" is to stop in a car with someone with the intention of having sex in the car.

Marty: Do you mind if we park for a while?
Loraine: That's a great idea. I'd love to park.
Marty: Huh?
Loraine: Well, Marty, I'm almost eighteen-years-old, it's not like I've never parked before.
- Back To The Future (1985)

So, the humour of your phrase "Don't drink and park: accidents cause people" is that if you engage in sexual intercourse in a parked vehicle while drunk you may forget protection and the woman will end up getting pregnant, resulting in a new "person" being born.

The other information that this joke hinges on is that a safety campaign against driving under the influence of alcohol is:

"Don't drink and drive: accidents cost lives"

The joke is a reversal of this - driving while drunk will cost a life, but "parking" while drunk might create one.

  • 8
    Ah, I didn't know that meaing of "park" which isn't in M-W.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 8:46
  • 3
    @Glorfindel have you never watched "Back to The Future"??
    – Astralbee
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 8:47
  • 5
    I would add that the sex-in-a-car meaning of 'park' is mainly confined to American English, probably because they have (or had) bigger cars with wide back seats. Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 10:53
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    It's worth noting that in the Back to the Future example, a lot of the humor of the scene comes from the fact that Marty was unaware of this secondary meaning of the word "park". By 1985 it had largely died out, and here we are, more than 30 years later... anyone can be forgiven for being confused by it. Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 18:49
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    @MasonWheeler Possibly not an argument for this site, but I disagree. Marty's "plan" was to make his mother offended so that she got angry with him and George could come and rescue her. Very early on in the movie, his mother had told him that, as a young woman, she had "never sat in a parked car with a boy". When Marty says "do you mind if we park" he knows what he is saying, his surprise comes when his mother is fine with it, given what she'd previously told him.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 18:52

Additional to Astralbee's correct answer, but too long for a comment:

The humor in the statement is achieved by reversing a more conventional phrase:

People cause accidents

English humor sometimes employs this type of reversal like in the phrase:

Don't just do something, stand there.

Or a great piece of graffiti I once saw in New York City:

Brain cancer causes cellphones

  • 3
    The brain cancer graffiti probably stems from xkcd.com/925
    – user102290
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 21:26
  • @Lincoln I saw it like 15 years ago. Probably predates XKCD
    – David M
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 21:27
  • @WarpDriveEnterprises I don't get the meme. What is meant by "backwards" here?
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 5:24
  • 1
    @Ben, "they" got the relationship between cell phones and cancer backwards. Instead of cell phones causing cancer, cancer causes cell phones.
    – user102290
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 14:14

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