DUI & Effective laws

ThinkProgress has kind of a strange post today about alcohol related automotive fatalities.  It includes some speculation on possible legal changes to reduce those numbers.

Researchers found that just three percent of death certificates for traffic fatalities between 1999 and 2009 listed alcohol as a contributing factor. However, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 21 percent of people killed in car crashes over that same period were legally drunk — seven times as much as what gets reported on death certificates.

Wait, what?  If a passenger is killed, and is legally drunk, are they saying that the accident should count as alcohol related?  Shouldn’t it only be alcohol related if the driver (of any vehicle involved) has a detectable amount of alcohol in his/her system?

Then they add this:

the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending lowering the legal blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05.

Well then, isn’t that really a case of doing something without any data?  The next quote from the NTSB guy seems to pretty much sum it up:

“We need to have a handle on what’s contributing to the leading cause of death among young people,” Hingson said. “You want to know how big the problem is, and if we can track it. Is it going up, or going down? And what policy measures are working?”

If you don’t know what policy measures are working, then why would you just randomly change them?  This reduction is nowhere on MADD’s list of priorities:

• Support our heroes. Support high-visibility law enforcement to catch drunk drivers and discourage others from driving drunk.
• Sober to start. Require ignition interlock devices, or in-car breathalyzers, for all drunk drivers, to prove they are sober before their car will start.
• Secure the future. Support the development of technology to determine automatically whether or not the driver is above the legal limit of .08 and failing to operate if the driver is drunk

The NTSB also made other recommendations along with .05 BAC, and the other recommendations are more common sense:

…the safety board also championed laws allowing police to confiscate a motorist’s license at the time of arrest if the driver exceeds a BAC limit, or refuses to take the BAC test.

Some 40 states already use the administrative tool, which the NTSB believes is effective because it is swift and immediate.

And the board recommended more widespread use of passive alcohol sensors, which police can use to “sniff” the air during a traffic stop to determine the presence of alcohol.

The sensor is capable of detecting alcohol even in cases where the driver has attempted to disguise his breathe with gum or mints. If the sensor alerts, it is grounds for more thorough testing.

The NTSB recommended last December that states require ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders and said states should improve interlock compliance.

They then conflated the .05 argument with these facts:

For some, the vote struck close to home.

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt noted that one of his relatives had been killed by a drunk driver and another is serving a 15-year sentence in a related death.

Many of the recommendations “are going to be unpopular,” Sumwalt said. “But if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re not going to make any difference.”

I’m sorry for his loss.  But if the relative was killed by a drunk driver, and another is in jail, then they were above .08, by definition.  I’m not sure changing the legal limit would have made a difference.

And the NTSB cites this event in every press conference about DUI:

On May 14, 1988, a drunk driver drove his pickup the wrong way on Interstate 71 near Carrollton, Kentucky. The truck hit a school bus, killing 24 children and three adults. More than 30 others were hurt.

According to Wikipedia, the driver in that accident had a BAC of .24, and he had previously been arrested for DUI.  The other provisions listed above would have prevented that accident if in effect at that time.

DUIs ruin lives, too, by limiting the future prospects of the driver. (In fact, DUI laws kill people, but that’s another story.)  .05 is very low.  It’s one drink for a normal sized woman.  Is it worth limiting a person’s future to save a life?  Sure, of course.  Is it worth limiting 10 people’s futures to save a life?  How many?  I would just like to see real data on .05 vs. .08 BAC of the drivers involved in fatal accidents.  I hope that they are able to improve the data on alcohol levels and fatal accidents, which was really the point of the study cited in the first article.

We will probably have self driving cars before we get enough good data, though.  Which might eliminate the issue entirely.

  • Support our heroes.  Support high-visibility law enforcement to catch drunk drivers and discourage others from driving drunk.
  • Sober to start.  Require ignition interlock devices, or in-car breathalyzers, for all drunk drivers, to prove they are sober before their car will start.
  • Secure the future.  Support the development of technology to determine automatically whether or not the driver is above the legal limit of .08 and failing to operate if the driver is drunk.

– See more at: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/campaign/?print=t#sthash.GQK5e6xu.dpuf

  • Support our heroes.  Support high-visibility law enforcement to catch drunk drivers and discourage others from driving drunk.
  • Sober to start.  Require ignition interlock devices, or in-car breathalyzers, for all drunk drivers, to prove they are sober before their car will start.
  • Secure the future.  Support the development of technology to determine automatically whether or not the driver is above the legal limit of .08 and failing to operate if the driver is drunk.

– See more at: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/campaign/?print=t#sthash.GQK5e6xu.dpuf

  • Support our heroes.  Support high-visibility law enforcement to catch drunk drivers and discourage others from driving drunk.
  • Sober to start.  Require ignition interlock devices, or in-car breathalyzers, for all drunk drivers, to prove they are sober before their car will start.
  • Secure the future.  Support the development of technology to determine automatically whether or not the driver is above the legal limit of .08 and failing to operate if the driver is drunk.

– See more at: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/campaign/?print=t#sthash.GQK5e6xu.dpuf

  • Support our heroes.  Support high-visibility law enforcement to catch drunk drivers and discourage others from driving drunk.
  • Sober to start.  Require ignition interlock devices, or in-car breathalyzers, for all drunk drivers, to prove they are sober before their car will start.
  • Secure the future.  Support the development of technology to determine automatically whether or not the driver is above the legal limit of .08 and failing to operate if the driver is drunk.

– See more at: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/campaign/#sthash.LPDkvV2x.dpuf

  • Support our heroes.  Support high-visibility law enforcement to catch drunk drivers and discourage others from driving drunk.
  • Sober to start.  Require ignition interlock devices, or in-car breathalyzers, for all drunk drivers, to prove they are sober before their car will start.
  • Secure the future.  Support the development of technology to determine automatically whether or not the driver is above the legal limit of .08 and failing to operate if the driver is drunk.

– See more at: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/campaign/#sthash.LPDkvV2x.dpuf

  • Support our heroes.  Support high-visibility law enforcement to catch drunk drivers and discourage others from driving drunk.
  • Sober to start.  Require ignition interlock devices, or in-car breathalyzers, for all drunk drivers, to prove they are sober before their car will start.
  • Secure the future.  Support the development of technology to determine automatically whether or not the driver is above the legal limit of .08 and failing to operate if the driver is drunk.

– See more at: http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/campaign/#sthash.LPDkvV2x.dpuf

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s