“The Politics of Modern Prohibition”

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on May 8th, 2009

Recently, it seems that there has been an increasing willingness of the media willing to reject political correctness and MADD's hysteria, instead adopting a more objective and reasoned approach to the question of traffic safety…


Our View:  The Politics of Modern Prohibition

Colorado Springs, CO.  May 4 –Do not drink and drive. Do not drink and drive, do not drink and drive, do not drink and drive. There. It has been said. The Gazette's editorial board officially opposes drinking and driving. It's a truly bad idea.

With that out of the way, it's time to raise the question: Why does law enforcement aggressively seek to prohibit drinking and driving, severely punishing some drivers who've had a few drinks and caused no harm, while tolerating an array of other dangerous driving conditions? The answer might be the politics of modern prohibition, or the political feasibility of enacting controls over people who drink but not people who are too old or too ill to drive safely, or those too busy texting, eating, shaving or looking at maps to pay attention to traffic around them…

Our criminal justice system does not demand that most people with dementia stop driving, even though it's a condition that can cause them to crash. Police don't seek them out with checkpoints, in order to fine and jail them for driving while confused. They seldom target and punish drivers who've neglected to get sleep. They don't hunt down people who are driving despite knowledge of an imminent heart attack or stroke.

When medically challenged drivers are held accountable for driving when they shouldn't, it's only after they crash. Yet drinkers, even casual drinkers who aren't drunk and are not statistically at high risk for causing harm, are punished for what might have happened. It violates the spirit of the 14th Amendment, which requires equal protection under the law.

"This severe legal persecution of drunk drivers alone, instead of all dangerous drivers, makes a complete mockery of our legal system," wrote Mark Crovelli, of Denver, for LewRockwell.com. "It is a situation in which one group of demonized and socially-despised drivers is mercilessly persecuted, while other non-demonized drivers are virtually ignored – even though both groups of drivers put other people's lives at risk."

Crovelli points to a U.S. Census Bureau projection that says 9.6 million people will be older than age 85 by 2030, up 73 percent from today. He said road safety analysts predict that by 2030 drivers over 65 will cause 25 percent of all fatal crashes – up from 11 percent in 2005. Crovelli wants to know if police will set up checkpoints to catch people for driving while too old, handcuff them, jail them overnight, counsel them, and fine them thousands of dollars because of the harm they might have caused if left on the road.

Again, for the record, it's a bad idea to drink and drive. It's downright dangerous to drive after drinking to excess. But it's also dangerous to drive with an array of other conditions and behaviors, known to affect young and old alike, that endanger others on the road. In our zeal to criminalize all who drink and drive, including those with blood alcohol levels as low as 0.05, let's not conveniently forget that little requirement of equal protection under the law.


Is it possible that the recent appointment of MADD's CEO to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has triggered a long-overdue backlash?


(Thanks to Ken Sharp)
 

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