Daily Archives: January 11, 2010
Three days ago I posted an example of what appears to be a growing backlash against the practical and constitutional damages being wrought by MADD’s out-of-control "War on Drunk Driving". See A Breath of Fresh Air. Another example of this rational but politically incorrect view was recently presented by the President of the National Motorists Association, James J. Baxter:
Laws Will Create New Criminals and Won’t Deter Chronic Offenders
When I first heard the announcement that the state Legislature was going into special session to overhaul Wisconsin’s drunken driving laws, my first thought was "it’s about time." Maybe legislators will go all the way and reduce the drinking age so it reflects something closer to reality. Better yet, they will raise the legal blood-alcohol limit so the vast majority of the driving public that isn’t part of the drunken driving problem will be left alone and not subjected to life-ruining penalties and career-destroying sanctions.
But, alas, I was wrong.
Wisconsin’s drunken driving policies are taking on all the worst elements of the war on drugs:
The penalties and punishments are out of proportion to the supposed crime. Have two or three drinks and blow a 0.08 breath-alcohol concentration, without an accident and no realistic impairment, and you are looking down the barrel of a multi-thousand-dollar fine, fees, surcharges, possible job loss, revocation of professional licenses, scholarship cancellation and of course suspension of your driver’s license.
And, this doesn’t even scratch the surface!
How many times does it have to be proven that statistics surrounding drunken driving are more propaganda than fact? Drunken drivers are not responsible for 41% of Wisconsin’s fatal traffic accidents. The simple presence of alcohol in someone’s system in a population where 60% to 70% of the population consumes alcohol is not automatically the "cause" of a traffic accident. Yet that is what the public is led to believe.
A more realistic and valid estimation of accidents caused by drunken drivers would be 10% – not 41%. This isn’t acceptable, but it does put the issue in a different, more rational perspective.
Speaking of repetition: Despite their apparent admiration for the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union checkpoints, why do acolytes of Mothers Against Drunk Driving continue to promote roadblocks? Is this just an irrational desire for revenge against a free society in general? It’s been repeatedly proven that roadblocks do not catch or deter meaningful numbers of drunken drivers.
Why is the Legislature ignoring the results and the recommendations of the most extensive review of ignition interlock devices? It is clearly stated that mandating ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders, regardless of blood-alcohol level, result in increased numbers of accidents. I’m assuming that the intent of this legislation is to reduce traffic accidents, so why pass a provision known to increase accidents?
Recognizing that this legislation will create thousands of new "criminals," and thus will cost the public money, the preferred source of revenue will be people caught driving on suspended licenses – many of which are suspended because the driver couldn’t afford to pay the original fine and/or out-of-sight insurance premiums. This sounds a lot like beating blood out of stones.
And what evidence is there that society will benefit one whit from the creation of new crimes or the heaping on of more penalties? We’ll end up with thousands of new "criminals" and thousands more with lost jobs and diminished job opportunities.
The only apparent beneficiaries will be the companies that make ignition interlock devices. And the serious and habitual drunken drivers who dominate the headlines, how will this affect them? Not at all. They have long proven their resilience to the punitive approach. Many have nothing of consequence to lose.
Further, as is currently the case, enforcement, judicial and institutional resources will be too focused on these new DUI criminals, caught driving home from ball games, wedding receptions, Friday night fish fries or bowling alleys, to devote any serious attention to the perennially and seriously impaired drunken driver.
Amen again. For my own comments on this issue see Time for a Change.