Have 2 Drinks, Drive & Go to Jail
The NTSB has announced today (May 14, 2013) that they are seeking to lower the prohibited blood alcohol content for DUIs from 0.08 to 0.05 across the nation. Of course, they announced this on the anniversary of the worst drunk-driving accident in U.S. history. On May 14th, 1988 a drunk driver collided with a school bus full of children returning from a church-outing on Interstate 71 near Carrolton, Kentucky killing 24 children, three adults and injuring 34 others. The pickup driver had been arrested for DUI previously and had a blood alcohol level of 0.24. The law at that time was 0.10 and had no effect on the driver’s actions. Obviously, had this 0.05 legislation been the law, it would have had no effect on the outcome of this tragic event.
Going hand-in-hand with this is the new definition of “accident” being used by the government. Now included in the term “accident” are new scenarios. If a person falls out of the bed of a non-moving pickup truck on the roadway and is injured–that is an “accident.” If a vehicle catches fire on the roadway–that is an “accident.”
The NTSB claims that lowering the limit to 0.05 would save 500-800 lives per year, but they have no statistics to back that up. Aside from the fact that there is a 38% difference between 500 and 800 which calls their statistics into question all by itself, in order to make such a claim, they would have to prove that there were 500-800 lives lost as a result of drivers who were 0.05 to 0.079. That seems unlikely because their statistic relies upon “alcohol-related traffic fatalities” and not, necessarily, deaths caused by a drunk driver. What’s an “alcohol-related traffic fatality” you ask?
An “alcohol-related traffic fatality” certainly includes a drunk driver who kills another person, but it also includes a sober driver who runs over and kills a drunken pedestrian. In other words, if anyone involved in a crash dies and if anyone else was drunk, it is an “alcohol-related traffic fatality.” Moreover, if a blood alcohol content is not measured by any chemical testing procedure, the police are allowed to “estimate” an alcohol concentration for reporting purposes. Of course, police -reporting statistics are used to determine how much of a problem DUIs are in their area. That, in turn, makes the police agency eligible for more federal and state dollars to combat the “problem.”
We are moving closer and closer to prohibition. While there is no Constitutional Right to drive while intoxicated, there is a Constitutional premise which requires that laws be rationally related to the purpose for which they have been written. The proposed limit of 0.05 is not.
To put this into perspective, I am a 180lb male. If I have two 6oz glasses of wine with dinner, I will exceed the proposed 0.05 level by 22%. This is simply another attack on the citizenry by the zealots called the MADD Mothers–the modern-day incarnation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It will serve to do nothing but ruin the lives of law-abiding people and line the pockets of MADD when those convicted are sentenced to a punishment which includes attending the MADD Victim-Impact Panel.
The NTSB has no power to set any prohibited level for any state, but the federal government has the ability to withhold highway funds for non-conforming states. Common wisdom back in the late 1990s was that the beverage and hospitality industry would never allow a move to 0.08, but we all know how that turned out. Our government does not pass laws in an attempt to expand the rights of the citizenry–only in a effort to restrict it.