MADD and the New Prohibition

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on November 26th, 2005

For years I have railed about MADD’s evangelical crusade ("DUI, MADD and the New Prohibition") and the damage it continues to inflict on our disappearing constitutional rights ("The DUI Exception to the Constitution").  Perhaps perspective and rationality are finally beginning to trump political correctness – as evidenced by the following insightful  observations from policy analyst and columnist Radley Balko:


When Drunk Driving Deterrence Becomes Neo-Prohibition

FoxNews.com.  This fall Mothers Against Drunk Driving marks its 25th anniversay….

Unfortunately, MADD has come to outlive and outgrow its original mission. By the mid-1990s, deaths from drunk driving began to level off, after 15 years of progress. The sensible conclusion to draw from this was that the occasional drunk driver had all but been eradicated. MADD’s successes had boiled the problem down to a small group of hard-core alcoholics.

It was at about this time that MADD began to move in a different direction, one not so much aimed at reducing drunk driving fatalities but at stripping DWI defendants of basic criminal rights. MADD also seemed to expand its mission to one of discouraging the consumption of alcohol in general – what critics call "neo-prohibition."

MADD’s biggest victory on this front was a nationwide blood-alcohol threshold of .08, down from .10. But when two-thirds of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve blood-alcohol levels of .14 and above, and the average fatal accident occurs at .17, this move doesn’t make much sense. It’s like lowering the speed limit from 65 to 60 to catch people who drive 100 miles per hour. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed all the statistical data and concluded "the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol."….

MADD has also worked to undermine the criminal protections of accused drunk drivers, protections routinely granted to accused murderers, rapists and other felony crimes. MADD, for example, has pushed to impose tougher penalties on motorists who refuse to take roadside breath tests than on those who take them and fail, effectively turning the Fifth Amendment on its ear. The organization also favors "administrative license revocation," which means the revocation of the driver’s licenses and, in some cases, the confiscation of the vehicles, of those accused of drunken driving before they’re ever given a trial….

MADD is also pushing its agenda onto family laws, including a zero tolerance policy for divorced parents. Under the bills MADD is trying to push through state legislatures, a parent caught consuming one beer or glass of wine before driving could face penalties that, according to MADD, "should include, but are not limited to" : "incarceration," "change of primary custody," or "termination of parental rights." This means that if you take your kid to the game, have a beer in the third inning, then drive home, you could very well lose your rights as a father.

Even MADD’s founder, Candy Lightner, has lamented that the organization has grown neo-prohibitionist in nature.

"[MADD has] become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned …," Lightner is quoted as saying in an Aug. 6 story in the Washington Times. "I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving," she said.

Unfortunately, the tax-exempt organization has become so enmeshed with government it has nearly become a formal government agency. MADD gets millions of dollars in federal and state funding, and has a quasi-official relationship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In some jurisdictions, DWI defendants are sentenced to attend and pay for alcoholic-recovery groups sponsored by MADD. In many cities, MADD officials are even allowed to man sobriety checkpoints alongside police.

On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, perhaps its time Congress revisit the spigot of federal funding flowing to MADD, and consider revoking the organization’s tax-exempt status. Clearly, MADD isn’t the same organization it was 25 years ago. It has morphed into an anti-alcohol lobbying organization. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s certainly within MADD’s and its supporters’ First Amendment rights.

But taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize them.


Amen.

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