24. March 2005 · Comments Off on Lower BAC Limits Equals Less Highway Safety · Categories: General

As predicted, the tightening of enforcement of drinking drivers has resulted in more deaths on the highway, not less:

Alcohol industry advocates and civil libertarians made two predictions after .08 and roadblocks went national:

(1) Arrests would go up, triggering new outrages and calls for even more stringent laws aimed at curbing drinking and (as opposed to drunk) driving.

(2) Highways would get less safe, as cops, courts, and jail cells that could be used to pursue actual drunken drivers would instead be used to apprehend social drinkers.

We’ve certainly seen plenty of point one — state legislatures are falling all over themselves to pass extra-constitutional policies aimed at “cracking down” on impaired driving.

Unfortunately, point two is proving correct, too.

After two decades of decline, alcohol-related deaths are inching upward again. It’s important to point out that data from NHTSA on drunk driving fatalities and traffic deaths is significantly flawed. The “alcohol-related” figure includes all accidents where alcohol is in any way involved, including for example, an accident in which a sober driver strikes a drunk pedestrian. The Los Angeles Times concluded a few years ago that the number of cases in which a sober person was killed by a drunk driver is about one-fourth of the figure put out each year by NHTSA.

Nevertheless, since .08 and ubiquitous roadblocks, alcohol-related deaths are climbing again. Opponents of alcohol-control policies see this as vindication of their objections to roadblocks and .08. Oddly enough, a press release issued last week by the National Transportation Safety Board offers further proof that they may be right.

It’s title? “Hard Core Drinking Driving Fatalities on the Rise.”

“Americans are more aware than ever before of the dangers of drinking and driving,” the release 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.

Read the whole thing.

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