Archive for June 23rd, 2008

MADD “Statistics” Again Debunked

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

As I’ve posted repeatedly in the past, MADD’s prohibitionist zealots are fond of twisting statistics to justify their expansion of unfair laws, Draconian penalties and unconstitutional procedures.  See, for example, A Closer Look at DUI Fatality StatisticsMADDness and Lies, Damned Lies and MADD Statistics.

The truth is finally beginning to emerge:


A Reality Check on DUI Claims 

Groups purposely misstate fatalities

to further an anti-drinking agenda

The Tennessean, June 22 — Drunken-driving stories, like last week’s op-ed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving representative Alexanderia Honeycutt, make headlines every day.

Groups like MADD relentlessly remind Americans that the abuse of alcohol continues to be a huge problem on our roadways and, as a result, the most drastic measures are needed. Though truly "drunken" driving is a serious issue, much of the reported problem is little more than PR.

 Consider fatality statistics. The number of deaths that activist groups attribute to drunken driving is grossly exaggerated.

Last year, federal statisticians classified almost 18,000 deaths as "alcohol-related." However, alcohol-related does not mean alcohol-caused. In fact, that figure includes anyone killed in a crash in which at least one person (driver, pedestrian, cyclist, etc.) was estimated to have any alcohol. (If a sober driver recklessly crashes into and kills a family whose driver had enjoyed a glass of wine, statistics reflect all their deaths as "alcohol-related.")

In reality, the figure reflects a much broader spectrum of casualties: people under the legal limit, drunken pedestrians, impaired cyclists and others. After accounting for those people, actual innocent victims only make up 12 percent of the widely reported statistic — a considerably smaller amount than activists have led us to believe.

The anti-alcohol lobby has also invented fantastical talking points to bolster their bunk traffic stats. Honeycutt uses one of its favorites ("first offenders drive drunk on average 87 times before they are caught"), going so far as to accuse individuals of criminal acts with absolutely no proof to back up the claim.

The truth is that this widely publicized figure comes from rough estimates of self-reported data — commonly criticized as unreliable. Collected from a small sample almost 13 years ago, even the study’s own authors admit the estimates are "crude."


As I posted a couple of years ago, an independent study by the Los Angeles Times  found that despite federal figures claiming nearly 18,000 deaths caused by drunk driving in 2002, only about 5,000 of these actually involved a drunk driver causing the death of a sober driver, passenger or pedestrian.

MADD has used the same altered statistics to get all 50 states – with some federal coercion – to lower the legal limit to .08% and to expand the use of roadblocks:


In the 1990s, these groups used another "crude" statistic to convince the public that reducing the legal blood-alcohol content limit from 0.10 to 0.08 percent would save 600-800 lives annually. Today, research proves it didn’t work.

Their 0.08 push failed to have any measurable effects on traffic fatality rates. It only lowered the threshold for qualifying as a "drunken" driver, ignoring the fact that the majority of "drunks" wreaking havoc on our roads drive while more than double the 0.08 limit. One study in Contemporary Economic Policy concluded that 0.08 efforts would have been better spent encouraging effective measures against chronic drunken drivers.

Tennessee’s anti-alcohol groups aren’t heeding that warning. Instead, they’re demanding more funding, more legislation and more manpower for other misguided measures, like sobriety checkpoints.

These roadblocks are based on the idea that it’s more important to look "tough on drunken driving" than to actually go after the drunks. Checkpoints don’t catch many (if any) drunken drivers. In the largest program ever studied, Tennessee ran almost 900 checkpoints over the course of a year, stopping almost 150,000 of the state’s drivers. The result: a mere 773 DUI arrests — less than one arrest per checkpoint. Compare that to the impact of roving police patrols — a tactic that catches 10 times more drunken drivers than roadblocks.

But you won’t hear anti-alcohol activists like Honeycutt repeat that stat. Their groups no longer target "drunken" drivers, aiming instead to eliminate any drinking before driving.

Right now, the 176 million responsible Americans who drink in moderation can still safely (and legally) drive home after enjoying a drink. Furthermore, research shows that drivers who talk on cell phones, drive drowsy, or travel 7 mph above the speed limit pose a larger threat than those who enjoy a few drinks (and stay below 0.08) before driving home.

Disregarding the evidence, the anti-alcohol movement’s invented, inflated and distorted "facts" would have the public believe that there should be no legal limit except zero. This is the reason we all think one thing when the reality is another.

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