Ed Driscoll

Drinking and Legislating

Radly Balko writes, “In an effort to get ‘get tough’ on drunken driving, lawmakers are not only needlessly carving into our civil liberties, they’re actually making our highways and roads more dangerous than they were before”:

“Americans are more aware than ever before of the dangers of drinking and driving,” [a press release issued last week by the National Transportation Safety Board] begins. “Few realize, however, that drunk driving fatalities continue to rise — and that thousands of them are caused by extreme or repeat offenders known as “hard core drinking drivers.”

The study goes on to point out that these “hard core” offenders account for 40% of traffic accidents but account for just 33% of drunk driving arrests.

It’s actually worse than that. If we look at “fatalities” instead of “accidents,” drivers with a BAC above .10 account for 77% of the alcohol-related body count. And the average BAC in fatal accidents involving alcohol is .17. Put another way, motorists with very high blood-alcohol levels account for an increasing percentage of highway fatalities, but a decreasing percentage of arrests.

Clearly, we’re allocating limited law enforcement resources toward the wrong pool of offenders.

Yet the first bullet point in the NTSB’s “Recommended Model Program” for dealing with hard core drunken drivers is “frequent and statewide sobriety checkpoints” — the very policy that in all likelihood is responsible for the uptick in traffic fatalities to begin with.

And as these policies continue to erode highway safety and spike fatality statistics, lawmakers will inevitably use those very statistics as justification for not only continuing and extending the same bad policies, but for passing even more laws aimed at stripping drunk driving defendants of criminal protections, and at restricting the sale, marketing, and consumption of alcohol.

No wonder there’s an increasing backlash at MADD.