“Lies, Damned Lies and MADD Statistics”

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on May 4th, 2005

As part of its 25th Anniversay celebration, the President of MADD is once again touting the organization's success in the following recent press release:

MADD is cautiously optimistic about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) report showing a 2.1 percent decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities from 2003 to 2004. NHTSA's preliminary Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data estimates that 16,654 people died in preventable alcohol-related traffic crashes, compared to 17,013 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2003….

We believe that the slight decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities is linked to increased law enforcement efforts and 13 states starting to enforce the .08 percent Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) law in 2003. As of July 2004, all states have passed the .08 BAC law, but Minnesota's law will not go into effect until August of this year.

As for what constitutes "preventable alcohol-related traffic crashes", who knows? However, another set of statistics on MADD's own website indicates that the numbers for 2004 are only an estimate – as opposed to the confirmed fatality statistics for the previous 24 years of MADD's existence. And if one looks at all of those numbers, it appears that alcohol-related fatalities have remained fairly constant for the past decade. In fact, the fatalities estimated for 2004 are about the same as for 1997 and 1998 — and actually higher than those for 1999. If, as MADD claims, the slight decrease in 2004 was due to 13 states starting to enforce the .08 law, why didn't the fatality rate decrease during the past decade — when the other 37 states adopted and started enforcing the .08 law? And as for "increased law enforcement efforts", there is no evidence (or statistics) that enforcement in 2004 was any different than in, say, 2003 or 2002. And as for the claim that "16,544 people died in preventable alcohol-related traffic fatalities", read in my earlier post how these statistics have been made to sit up and bark.

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