Measured Against Reality

Monday, August 20, 2007

Drunk driving deaths down in 28 states, but that's not the headline

Via Radley Balko I saw this great story: Drunken driving deaths up in 22 states. As Radley points out, the article states that deaths are down overall, and in 28 states (plus DC and Puerto Rico), but the headline (and the entire rest of the article) is all about the negative.

Because of what I'm about to say, I feel the need to say that driving while intoxicated is stupid and irresponsible. Drunk driving is, like so many topics in modern America, totally unassailable. And it, just like everything else, shouldn't be.

That being said, I feel the need to point out that this is kind of a crock. Driving at .08 is less dangerous than driving while talking on a cell phone. That's hard to believe, I know, but tons of studies and even the MythBusters have come to that conclusion. The total "alcohol related" fatalities statistic is almost surely meaningless. You can register a BAC after taking tons of medicines or other innocuous ways, and you don't even need a measurable BAC for an accident to be "alcohol related", there just needs to be "evidence of alcohol", whatever that means. After all of this, these statistics are all exaggerated, sometimes flagrantly so. From the link:

According to the painstaking research of Stephen Beck of Drinkers Against Mad Mothers, only 500 innocent Americans are killed each year by drunk drivers. As many Americans are killed in railway accidents each year.

Now I haven't looked at his research, so I'd take that number with a grain of salt, but the point still stands that drunk driving isn't as big of a problem as articles like this make it out to be. I'm far more worried about being hit by some idiot who's just not paying attention than an idiot who's had a few too many. And in reality, I think we all are.

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  • 1. Noone says that .08 is the point where you lose control. It's the point where you are penalized for doing something you probably shouldn't.

    2. Using a cell phone while driving is illegal in many countries, so instead of complaining about .08 being a silly limit, you should complain about talking on the phone while driving being legal.

    By Blogger Bjørn, at 12:35 AM, August 21, 2007  

  • I guess you don't do a lot of driving at night time. If you only drive during the day, then you it is reasonable to not be too concerned about being hit by a drunk driver - but at night time, there are so many maniacs on the road, that it is a great concern.

    Personally I think that about 20% of the people on the road should be banned from driving permanently. If you can't follow the rules, and be courteous to other drivers, then get of my road!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:48 AM, August 21, 2007  

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