Archive for April 28th, 2005

DUI and Traffic Fatalities

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

Due in no small part to the political influence of MADD and the use of deceptive statistics, federal and state governments continue to focus almost exclusively upon DUI in their efforts to address the loss of lives on the nation's highways — to the exclusion of such other major causes as distracted drivers (cell phones, eating, reading maps, etc.) and drowsy drivers.

While drunk driving continues to be a contributing factor in many traffic fatalities, the focus on this to the exclusion of other significant causes impairs any efforts to reduce the numbers. Let's take a look at teenage traffic fatalities as an example. Partnership for Safe Driving, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization "dedicated to eliminating all forms of dangerous driving", recognized the problem in a recent report:

In response to a rash of high-profile teen crashes ' the majority of which have had nothing to do with alcohol ' the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is teaming up with Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drunk Driving (RADD) and a long list of other partners for a new educational campaign to deter teenage drinking and increase seatbelt use. As reported by NHTSA, 3,657 drivers 15 to 20 years old were killed on the roads in 2003, and 308,000 were injured. Approximately 31 percent of teen drivers killed in crashes had been drinking. This means that 69 percent had not. Data for 2004 are not yet available, but the recent rash of high-profile teen crashes appears to be related, first and foremost, to speeding and drag racing, not alcohol. In addition, a growing number of teen crashes are caused by cell phone use among teen drivers, which is still legal in most states….

Not surprisingly, in 1999 MADD's National Board of Directors unanimously voted to change the organization's mission statement to include the prevention of underage drinking. Not underage drinking and driving — just drinking. Is it possible that MADD's fixation on alcohol is actually impairing efforts to address the more significant causes of traffic fatalities?

While the Partnership for Safe Driving strongly supports campaigns to deter drunk driving, we continue to be thoroughly puzzled by the unwillingness of both the government and private sector to acknowledge that both speeding and distracted driving are much bigger problems for teenagers than drunk driving. Until these problems are addressed, we expect to see no significant decline in teen deaths on the roads.
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