Losing Sight of the Goal

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on July 21st, 2010

For the past two decades, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has — very successfully — engaged in a holy war against drunk driving and underage drinking.  Through MADD’s political pressures on legislators and judges, the offense has been redirected from impairment to blood-alcohol levels, penalties have been radically increased, and constitutional rights have been repeatedly ignored. The offense has been demonized in the public eye to the point that it approaches the status of child molesting, and MADD continues to press for outlawing ever-lower blood-alcohol levels.

First, let’s get something clear:  drunk driving is dangerous.  That’s why we have DUI laws — not to punish the use of alcohol, but to punish those who represent a danger behind the wheel and thereby deter that person and others from endangering the public.  

The purpose, then, is protection of the public through deterrence of dangerous conduct.  It is not to punish people for drinking.  If the goal is to protect the public from the dangers of impaired driving, then , why is the focus today solely on alcohol?  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, numerous studies all indicate that, for example, driving while using a cell phone, distracted driving (eating or putting on lipstick in the read-view mirror) and driving while drowsy are at least as dangerous as drunk driving.  See, for example, Drunk Drivers vs Distracted Drivers, Most Dangerous: Drunk, Drowsy or Distracted?, Alcohol vs Cell Phone: Which is More Dangerous? and Inebriated or Texting While Driving – Which is More Dangerous?.

Yet we largely ignore these types of life-threatening conduct, while continuing to focus laws and law enforcement on DUI.

Again, I’m not suggesting that we legalize drunk driving; it should be punished.  But the hysteria needs to be toned down, and the focus should shift to the danger that impaired driving of any kind represents — not to whether alcohol is involved or not.

From a recent news story:


Study: Radio Sports Can Distract Drivers

Wokingham, England.  July 2 — British researchers said a study indicates listening to sports on the radio while driving can be as dangerous as drunken driving.

The Transport Research Laboratory in Wokingham, England, said its study involving nine men and nine women ranging in age from 25 to 45 found reaction times were slowed by up to 20 percent when drivers were listening to sports, adding nearly 20 feet of additional stopping time for a car travelling 70 mph, the Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

"To put this into context, this increase in distance traveled is 10 percent further than the additional distance when driving with a blood alcohol level at the U.K. legal limit", the report read.


Perhaps MADD should concentrate on accident prevention, not on returning to prohibition.  
 

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