Monthly Archives: July 2010

MADD’s New Focus: Prohibition

 Ok, I guess I'm on another MADD rampage, but the following editorial in the San Francisco Examiner seems to indicate that the tide is turning:

MADD's New Focus: Prohibition

San Francisco, CA.  July 27
— Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)  is suffering from mission creep. A victim of its own success, the non-profit group is now pursuing Prohibitionist anti-alcohol policies – such as calling for alcohol detectors in all cars – instead of focusing on its original goal of reducing drunk driving deaths.

“The public needs to realize that MADD isn’t the same group it was 20 years ago,” says American Beverage Institute (ABI) Managing Director Sarah Longwell.


MADD founder Candy Lightner agrees. The non-profit group she started in 1980 after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver “has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned … I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”


Part of the problem is MADD’s prior success in bringing the issue of drunk driving to the public’s attention.


“The biggest problem in reducing drunk driving fatalities now consists of the hard core of alcoholic drivers who repeatedly drive with BAC’s of .15 or higher,” says Dr. David Hanson, professor emeritus at the State University of New York/Potsdam. “But MADD has now decided to go after social drinkers and to eliminate driving after drinking any amount of alcohol beverage. This change appears to reflect the influence of a growing neo-prohibitionist movement within MADD.”


The change in focus has been accompanied by a change in the way MADD spends donor funds. The American Institute of Philanthropy recently downgraded MADD to a “D” in its 2010 Charity Guide and Watchdog Report, citing the group’s diminished focus on education and victim services in favor of fundraising and anti-drinking activism.


According to the AIP, MADD spent nearly double the average amount on fundraising, leaving just a little more than half of its revenue for programs. In 2008, despite declining revenue, two-thirds of its  budget – almost $30 million – was spent on staff salaries (which increased 56 percent).  Meanwhile, spending on community programs dropped 17 percent. It may be even lower than that, as MADD reportedly counts payments to professional fundraisers as charitable work, claiming they help educate potential donors.


Charity Navigator, which rates the effectiveness of various charitable organizations, also gave MADD just one out of four possible stars.

Charity Watchdog Gives MADD Low Score

 In the "no comment necessary" department:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Receives "D" Score

Goose Creek, SC.  July 26 – Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is in the hot seat after a dismal score from the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP). The AIP Charity Guide and Watchdog Report gave MADD a "D" rating on a A-F scale in its 2010 report.

Based on the AIP Charity Rating Guide, MADD got such a low score because of its poor fundraising and spending practices.

According to the American Beverage Institute, in 2008 MADD spent almost $30 million on salaries, leaving just a third of its budget, or $15 million, for charitable work and victim services…

In response to the downgraded rating from the AIP Watchdog Report, MADD’s national office released the following statement:

"Our focus on drunk driving, underage drinking and victim services is stronger than ever. While methodologies for determining efficiency differ, we are proud to invest more than three fourths of our funds in programs to support people and save lives and continue to streamline our efforts to be fiscally responsible. Like many, we’ve experienced challenging economic times. Although we have saved almost 300,000 lives and counting, the problem of underage drinking and drunk driving is far from solved. This simply means we need the public’s assistance now more than ever."

Another well-known charity watchdog,
Charity Navigator, has previously rated MADD – giving it the lowest possible rating: 1 star out of 4. 

The Blindness of Zealotry

In today’s news, a perfect example of the idiocy of MADD’s holy crusade:  

Schumer: Steering Wheels Could Stop Drunk Driving

Elmira, NY.  July 23 — In the future, cars may be able to detect — through a driver’s skin — whether he or she is drunk, and prevent the engine from starting.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was in Elmira on Friday to promote a bill that would fund research of alcohol detection devices that could make such a scenario possible.   Called the ROADS SAFE Act of 2010, or Senate bill 3039, the act would direct the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to spend $60 million over five years to figure out whether it’s possible to make an alcohol-detecting ignition lock that is both reliable and affordable.

"There’s a real chance for a tremendous breakthrough that doesn’t prosecute drunk driving after the act, but prevents it," Schumer said during a news conference with area officials at the Hazlett Building…

Schumer said sensors that can detect blood alcohol content could be placed on steering wheels and driver’s seats. He said that technology is already in use in an alcohol-sensing bracelet, such as one worn by actress Lindsay Lohan.

"It detects through sweat that is always coming out of your pores, even when you can’t feel it, the legal limit of alcohol," Schumer said. "And when she was over it, it would go beep beep, and law enforcement would come get her."… 

Hmmm….Shutting down the car’s ignition if the steering wheel detects sweat from the hands.  Clever, except….uh, what about gloves?   

Gee, $60 million of your taxes and all that technology…foiled by a cheap pair of gloves!  So guess what now becomes standard equipment in cars in their…uh, glove compartments?  Or…maybe they could make possession of gloves in a car illegal?  Or maybe…

I think we’re going to need another $60 million.

Losing Sight of the Goal

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.  

Alcohol on Breath + No Driving = DUI

In the current climate of political correctness, drunk driving is approaching the status of child molesting — and legislators, police, prosecutors and judges seem hell-bent on expanding the offense far beyond any reasonable interpretation. A recent example:

Appeals Court Nullifies Drunk "But Not Yet Driving" Offense

Pewaukee, WI.  July 14 — A state appeals court nullified a drunk driving arrest today against a woman who was nabbed in Pewaukee before she could even start her car.

Brittany Meye was arrested in January of last year, just after she got into her car at a gas station.  A police officer approached her, noticed a strong scnet of alcohol on her breath, and arrested her before she could start the car and pull away.

The Second District Court of Appeals in Waukesha said it’s wrong to suspect that a driver is drunk, just by smellin alcohol on people’s breath before they get behind the wheel.

Pretty obvious, right?  Then why was Ms. Meye arrested by the cop — and charged by the prosecutor?

And if you think this is an isolated example, see a few of my earlier posts: State Supreme Court: DUI Doesn’t Require Driving, Convicted of Drunk Driving…Without Driving, Sleeping Under the Influence and How to "Drive" Under the Influence While Sleeping.