Drunk Until Proven Sober

In the future, apparently, every car will be equipped with a device that passively tests the driver's blood alcohol concentration, allowing the vehicle to start only if his BAC is below the government-specified level. The first step, according to The New York Times, is to require less cool ignition devices, the kind with a tube the driver has to blow into, in the cars of anyone arrested for driving under the influence, including first-time offenders and those only slightly over the 0.08 percent line. The policy has been strikingly effective in New Mexico, the Times suggests, but it immediately undermines the claim of success (emphasis added):

With that tactic and others, the state saw an 11.3 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities last year. New Mexico was not the only state to record a decline in alcohol-related motoring deaths, and several states showed even bigger drops. For example, from 2004 to 2005, Maryland showed a decrease to 235 from 286, or 17.8 percent. In New Mexico, which has had a chronic problem with drunken driving, state officials cited the new rule on interlocks as a significant factor in their campaign to cut the fatality rate. The rule did not take effect until June 17, 2005.

Undeterred by the lack of evidence to support this expansion in the use of BAC-keyed ignition locks, Mothers Against Drunk Driving looks forward to the day when everyone has to prove his sobriety before starting his car. MADD Executive Director Chuck Hurley suggests insurers will begin offering discounts to drivers whose cars are equipped with the devices. I've got no problem with that in principle, except that the cutoff is established by legislators in response to political pressure from groups like MADD. The argument behind MADD's push to lower the DUI threshold from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent—drivers with BACs between those levels were getting into accidents—leads inexorably to a zero tolerance policy that forbids driving with any amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. Drivers with BACs between 0 and 0.08 percent, after all, account for a significant number of "alcohol-related" accidents.

Speaking of which, the Times suggests that progress in reducing alcohol-related traffic deaths has stalled during the last decade because the total number has remained more or less steady at around 13,000 a year. But it also notes (in a clause that for some reason appears only in the print version of the article) that "the rates of deaths per car and per mile traveled have declined," which sounds like progress to me. A more fundamental problem with the numbers is that the definition of an "alcohol-related" accident does not require any evidence that drinking actually contributed to the crash—just a BAC above zero in one of the drivers. By the same logic, we could conclude that sobriety is responsible for more accidents than drinking is.

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  • ||

    I take issue with the way they determine if a crash is "alcohol related". Anytime you crash and have alcohol is your system it's alcohol related, regardless if alcohol played a real role in the crash.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    A more fundamental problem with the numbers is that the definition of an "alcohol-related" accident does not require any evidence that drinking actually contributed to the crash-just a BAC above zero in one of the drivers.

    Same with death from any cause. If you smoked, it was cigarette related.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Oh, and based upon anecdotal evidence from clients and friends, you don't EVEN want to ever get popped for DUI. The cost in fines, legal fees, and increased insurance premiums is astronomical. I have one old guy who estimates that the last DUI he got has cost him $35,000.00. Disclaimer: It wasn't his first, it was well deserved, and he was fighting to stay out of jail. The cost includes cumulative insurance premiums for several years. And, I don't feel sorry for him.

  • ||

    $35,000? Wow. I guess it's a good idea to keep $10,000 or $15,000 in the car to bribe the cop when he busts you.

  • ||

    "By the same logic, we could conclude that sobriety is responsible for more accidents than drinking is"

    Only if we were idiots. Sorry, nice try, but alcohol is added to the base state, no alcohol (i.e. sobriety). It would be a different logic to assume the base state is the cause of the accidents. The logic you criticize actually works like this...

    Base state = sobriety = X number of traffic deaths.

    Base state + Alcohol at a certain level = X + n

    Where n is the increase due to the addition of alcohol at that level.

    Freedoms come with responsibilities.
    There is science to support lowering the BAC... the 0.08 level was not just pulled out of someone's ass. Here's a couple quick abstract excerpts...

    Psychopharmacology, Volume 118, Number 3 / April, 1995

    "...The capacity to divide and sustain attention is already impaired at BAC levels of 0.02-0.03%. Further, alcohol effects appear to some extent to be time-dependent, and are greatest during periods of sleepiness (the early afternoon and after mid-night). Some current BAC levels concerning drinking and driving are far too generous. There is sufficient evidence from the literature on performance indicating that the BAC standard for driving should be lowered to 0.02% for driving after midnight and for special risk groups (young and less experienced drivers)."

    Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
    Volume 23 Page 815 - May 1999
    doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.1999.tb04188.x
    Volume 23 Issue 5


    Alcohol Effects on Mood, Equilibrium, and Simulated Driving
    Anthony Liguori1, Ralph B. D'Agostino Jr.1, Steven I. Dworkin1, Don Edwards1 and John H. Robinson1
    Background

    : The effects of alcohol on simple versus complex psychomotor performance were compared in 18 adults.
    Methods

    : Subjects received ethanol doses of 0.0, 0.5, and 0.8 g/kg in a randomized, double-blind, within-subject design. Forty minutes after finishing their drinking, the subjects completed a 60-min battery of tests that included: 1) a sensory organization posturography test (EquiTest); 2) latency to apply the brake after appearance of a barrier in a driving simulator (brake reaction time); 3) visual analog subjective-effects scales (VAS); 4) the Profile of Mood States (POMS); 5) critical flicker fusion (CFF); and 6) choice reaction time (CRT).
    Results

    : Alcohol dose dependently reduced composite equilibrium scores and increased brake reaction time. On the CRT task, total reaction time was significantly increased after the high dose but not the low dose. Alcohol dose dependently increased VAS "dizzy," "high," and "drug effect" ratings. The POMS and CFF were not significantly affected by alcohol.
    Conclusions

    : These data suggest that an ethanol dose that neither influences certain mood states nor impairs simple psychomotor task performance nonetheless may impair equilibrium and complex psychomotor tasks (e.g., driving).

    http://ip.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/8/suppl_3/iii1.pdf

    "...Low doses of alcohol can adversely affect the psychomotor skills related to driving,
    especially steering and braking. One study indicated that significant impairment of steering
    ability begins with BACs as low as 0.035%.[30] Similarly, a Canadian study conducted on
    closed roads and airport taxiways found that subjects with a mean BAC of 0.06% had
    significantly impaired performance in steering accuracy.[31] In another study, drivers with a
    mean BAC of 0.042% hit substantially more cones in an evasive manoeuvre at 50 km per
    hour.[32] That study also recorded significant declines in braking ability at that same BAC.
    Finally, a more recent American experiment, which tested impairment at various BACs on a
    closed driving course, found that braking ability was decreased by approximately 30% at BACs
    of 0.03%.[33]
    (d) Information Processing
    Alcohol consumption adversely affects the brain's ability to process information. Drivers
    who have been drinking take longer to respond to stimuli like road signs and traffic signals. As a
    result, they tend to take notice of fewer sources of information than drivers with 0.00%
    BACs.[20] Alcohol also affects the ability to reason and form a decision, which results in
    drivers taking longer to respond to road hazards.[34] Taken together, these factors suggest that
    drivers who have consumed even small or moderate amounts of alcohol will have a delayed
    response to traffic situations. While most studies have examined and found impairment of
    information processing skills under "normal" driving conditions, the risks would likely be
    greatly increased in more demanding or emergency situations, such as poor weather or a
    potential crash."

  • ||

    I know several people who defend DUIs for a living and all of them agree that there is a minority of offenders who are hardcore alcoholics who won't quit drinking and won't stop driving and are responsible for most of the fatalities that are the result of drinking and driving. The problem is that short of locking these people up and throwing away the key, there is no way to stop these people. Jail, insurance premium hikes and taking their licenses do not deter them. These are the people who are found with a .18 driving the wrong way up the interstate at 80 mph. The rest of the people caught up in the DUI machine are just average people who happened to have a couple of drinks are not really a threat. The justice system, because he can't deal with the first group, has instead concentrated on the second group by lowering the legal limit and running Nazi type papers' please checkpoints. We have messed up a lot of people's lives who didn't deserve it and done precious little about the real criminals who are causing the problem.

    Instead of lowering the BAH, they should have a sliding scale of punishment. A .08 to say .10 ought to be a ticket and a call to someone to take the person home. A .11 to say a .15 ought to be a standard DUI arrest. Anything above a .15 ought to be mandatory jail time and a long term loss of your license. I don't care if it is your first offense, if you are driving around at .18, you are a menace and need to be locked up. Instead, we treat the guy who has a couple of beers the same way as the falling down drunk. But hey, society always loves a scapegoat. It is a lot easier than actually solving a problem.

  • ||

    How about an IQ requirement to obtain a drivers license. I wonder what the stats would say about stupidity related accidents. That, would of course,include shit-faced and stoned drivers as well as the "just plain stupid" folks.

  • ||

    I guess New Mexico's officials have never heard of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc"

  • ||

    I'll be the first one to rant the loudest about the inordinate and disproportionate punishment and lack of legal rights that are the norm in drunk driving laws...not only that, but the fact that the limit is so ridiculously low---so that it's actually more dangerous to drive while talking on a cellphone than it is to drive with a .08 BAC---makes it even more disgusting that they basically rape your entire life, even if you haven't hurt anyone.

    Having said that, if you look at the principle argument here, I don't see how you can say that it's okay for the cops to test your BAC, but it's not okay for the car to do the same thing. Abstractly, in principle, they're the same thing---namely, an intrusion on your person. If you agree that it is okay for the state to regulate your BAC, then, principally speaking, you have no valid ideological argument against ignition interlock devices.

  • ||

    Without reading the article, how exactly does the breathalizer interlock dealy actually verify that the breather is actually driving the car? I mean, one supposes that a hardcore drunk may just drag an innocent family member along with them to inhale into the thing in their stead...

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Mainstream, I don't think anyone is arguing that alcohol doesn't impair driving ability. I think the point Jacob and others makes is connected to probable cause and prior restraint. We are also noting that a .08 BAC standard for impairment is ridiculously low.

    For a guy like me, a glass of wine with lunch puts me real close to the limit. Two glasses and I'm over the legal limit. Suggesting that I am also impaired or incapable of managing a car after two glasses of wine is ludicrous.

    Even in a purely privatized libertarian society no road owner would knowingly permit an intoxicated driver to use his highway, so like that old joke about the girl sleeping with you for a thousand bucks but not for twenty, we're really arguing over price.

    Now I'm off to Palm Springs to have some drinks and lunch, poolside, with an old friend from the east coast.

  • ||

    "A more fundamental problem with the numbers is that the definition of an "alcohol-related" accident does not require any evidence that drinking actually contributed to the crash-just a BAC above zero in one of the drivers."

    Exactly. It's the same with "drug-related-________". Some kind of substance or habit becomes the bogeyman du jour, and suddenly, any trace of it in any party that is involved in anything bad means that it is somehow responsible for said bad thing...even if no causation can be proven.

  • ||

    "Having said that, if you look at the principle argument here, I don't see how you can say that it's okay for the cops to test your BAC, but it's not okay for the car to do the same thing."

    You are exactly right. This horse left the barn when the courts and the legislatures threw out the rights against unreasonable search and seizure and self incrimination in DUI cases by declaring driving a "privilage". We basically do not have any 4th or 5th Amendmet rights when it comes to drinking and driving. Cops can stop and search you at any time for virtually any reason and if you refuse you are presumed guilty and loose your drivers' license.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Evan, I don't agree that the POleece have a right to administer a BAC test. However, in Ca the law says driving is not a right and therefore none of the usual pleasantries afforded to murderers, bank robbers, rapists, con artists, and other sundry fleabags apply to motorists.

  • Dan T.||

    Instead of lowering the BAH, they should have a sliding scale of punishment. A .08 to say .10 ought to be a ticket and a call to someone to take the person home. A .11 to say a .15 ought to be a standard DUI arrest. Anything above a .15 ought to be mandatory jail time and a long term loss of your license. I don't care if it is your first offense, if you are driving around at .18, you are a menace and need to be locked up. Instead, we treat the guy who has a couple of beers the same way as the falling down drunk.

    Agreed. This seems like a reasonable idea.

    Unfortunately, our society is so in love with punishment that we're skeptical of any idea that might lessen it.

  • ||

    Is anybody buying this "base state" stuff? That assumes that the 'base state' is the best state for driving activity. Yet, at the base state you could be tired, wired on caffeine, stressed from a breakup, or maybe you even drive a little better after a beer. By this logic, you should be arrested for DUI if your job stress causes you to press the brake x seconds slower than normal.

    Worse, the study's conclusion is obvious. It says, "Low doses of alcohol can adversely affect the psychomotor skills related to driving. (emphasis mine)" Notice it only says it CAN affect skills related to driving, not that it DOES or how much it does in most cases (doesn't even quantify it). I also noticed that none of the so-called "driving simulator" tests included any hard data, i.e., the times. I suspect that's because it would be too difficult to relate a difference in reaction time to traffic fatalities on anything other than an anectdotal level.

    Drunk driving is a serious issue, but we should also be weary of journal articles that don't reach hard and fast conclusions. We all know that alcohol CAN lead to impairment. The question is how dangerous are people after one beer? I am always going to be skeptical of laboratory test results when there are actual car crash data. Why use the fake stuff when the real thing is available?

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    J sub, not sure that IQ is connected to the ability to drive. I will say that anyone who isn't a vegetable or a screaming psychotic can get a DL. The roads are filled with people who drive a car as if they were herding cattle, and worse. Makes me nuts. How many times have you said to yourself how the hell did that guy ever get a license?

  • gong tao||

    The excerpt from the NY Times is a perfect example of how awful coverage of statistics in the media is. They left out the sentence that says, "there is no evidence that the use of ignition locks contributed to the decrease in fatalities in New Mexico", which is what you will see if you read carefully. Instead, the casual reader is given the opposite impression.

  • ||

    TWC,

    "We are also noting that a .08 BAC standard for impairment is ridiculously low. "

    I know what you are arguing.
    The science, however, disagrees with you. The point of the science is that BAC as low as .025 or so has measurable effects on abilities important for driving, that levels above .05 consistently cause driving errors, and that both of these levels of BAC are below the level at which you feel drunk. A BAC of 0.08 is well above the level at which consistent errors are made, but is at a level where most people will have a subjective feeling of having had a couple of drinks. At BAC of 0.08, your judgment is not impaired as much as your driving ability, you should take a cab.

    If you want to argue against drunk driving laws, you should bring some evidence to the table that goes beyond your subjective judgment that 0.08 is too low.

    On a philosophical level, this seems like an area where the government has a legit role. Drinking is a victimless act. Drinking and driving has an impact on the risk of those around you. At some point your behavior becomes enough of a risk to others that you deserve sanction. Setting that point should be based on evidence, not "feelings."

  • tomWright||

    Cars are more dangerous than guns. Look at the numbers: (deep in this post) http://wrightwing.net/2006/04/17/11/05/270

    While I do have a problem with prior restraints on peaceful activity, I have no problems with intercepting and detaining those that are threatening others lives and safety.

    Someone that drives drunk is as potentially lethal as a drunk walking down the sidewalk shooting a 9mm at random. Neither is likely to hit someone, but the threat is obvious. And they should be subject to the same penalties. If a drunk shooter is sent to prison, so should a drunk driver. The intent is not the issue, the activity is not the issue, the threat is.

  • ||

    "If you want to argue against drunk driving laws, you should bring some evidence to the table that goes beyond your subjective judgment that 0.08 is too low."
    Or, since you are the one advocating harsher laws, you houls have to prove that your lab data is (1) relevant in the real world and (2) worth the cost to society.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    Instead of lowering the BAH, they should have a sliding scale of punishment. A .08 to say .10 ought to be a ticket and a call to someone to take the person home. A .11 to say a .15 ought to be a standard DUI arrest. Anything above a .15 ought to be mandatory jail time and a long term loss of your license. I don't care if it is your first offense, if you are driving around at .18, you are a menace and need to be locked up. Instead, we treat the guy who has a couple of beers the same way as the falling down drunk.

    This is a very good idea.

    Speaking as a guy that blew a .09, I can attest that it completely wrecks lives. I was assigned to one of the harshest DUI judges in the state and I had my license suspended and I was not given a work permit. I lost a very good job (I was single, living in the city going outbound, so no friends to carpool with and no way to get to work).

    The reason I was pulled over, then given a breathalyzer? One of my four taillights burned out. That's right -- no moving violations. A dead bulb in a car with dual taillights on each side. Even though the officer told the judge that he would have never pulled me over otherwise because I wasn't driving in any impaired manner, I still got slammed by the judge.

    A license lost, a job lost, $3,000 in fines and court costs and another $3,000 in legal fees, all for a fucking taillight.

  • ||

    houls = should. Wonder what my BAC is right now?

  • ||

    "A license lost, a job lost, $3,000 in fines and court costs and another $3,000 in legal fees, all for a fucking taillight."

    Nope. They were because of your BAC. You weren't willing to wait until you'd had time to process the alcohol before getting on the road. Your actions led to the consequences... take some responsibility.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Mainstream, Jacob has already introduced the evidence, I don't plan to recap it.

    Another point to ponder is this: If the drunk can make it from the bar to home without incident where is the demonstrated harm?

    If you plan on the what if route, that is a mighty slippery grade. That's the argument for banning guns and dope and Big Macs.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    Nope. They were because of your BAC. You weren't willing to wait until you'd had time to process the alcohol before getting on the road.

    I was operating the car in a completely safe manner and passed a field sobreity test. The officer TESTIFIED that he wouldn't have pulled me over otherwise and that I passed the field sobriety test.

    Your actions led to the consequences... take some responsibility.

    Ever think that maybe everyone isn't impaired at some number that MADD guilted some legislators into passing? Ever think that guilt shouldn't be assumed because of a number that doesn't fit all cases?

  • ||

    People from New Mexico tell me that a lot of places in New Mexico are dry or severely restrict sales of alcohol.

    A couple of years I was driving between Santa Fe and Taos and took the high road. This thing was about the width of my car in many places, with a cliff on the side. Many of the switchbacks had roadside memorials for people who probably fell off. I was scared driving this in the day under dry conditions -- I can't imagine what it would be if it were dark outside and snowy.

    I checked on New Mexico's government website and didn't find any bars or eating places with a non-suspended liquor license on the road. I don't know if that's because of an effort not to license them, because licensing is too difficult, or because of a lack of demand. But it's pretty startling to realize that if you are living in one of these little valleys and want to go out to a bar, you've got to drive a dangerous road to get there.

  • ||

    "Or, since you are the one advocating harsher laws, you houls have to prove that your lab data is (1) relevant in the real world and (2) worth the cost to society."

    I am not advocating harsher laws. I think they are about where they should be, at least in terms of defining the BAC level that defines DUI.

    "Ever think that guilt shouldn't be assumed because of a number that doesn't fit all cases?"

    Yep, that's why we have jury trials and a chance your you to defend yourself in court.

    The societal costs and relevance to the real world are, of course the issue. That issue, however, needs to be decided based on real information. There is plenty of it out there.

    Effectiveness of bans and laws in reducing traffic deaths: legalized Sunday packaged alcohol sales and alcohol-related traffic crashes and crash fatalities in New Mexico.
    Am J Public Health. 2006 Nov;96(11):1944-8. Epub 2006 Oct 3.

    * McMillan GP,
    * Lapham S.

    Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest, Albuquerque, NM 87102, USA.

    We determined the relative risk of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents and fatalities after New Mexico lifted its ban on Sunday packaged alcohol sales. We extracted all alcohol-related crashes from New Mexico police reports for 3652 days between July 1, 1990, and June 30, 2000, and found a 29% increase in alcohol-related crashes and a 42% increase in alcohol-related crash fatalities on Sundays after the ban on Sunday packaged alcohol sales was lifted. There was an estimated excess of 543.1 alcohol-related crashes and 41.6 alcohol-related crash fatalities on Sundays after the ban was lifted. Repealing the ban on Sunday packaged alcohol sales introduced a public health and safety hazard in New Mexico.

  • ||

    I don't know why this is even a problem. According to brian4132, drunkenness is not really an altered mental state, but just people acting funny because of social pressures or being declared drunk by tyrannical checkpoint officers and their breathalysers. Drunk people don't need to sober up before driving, they just need more personal character and to know that they are appreciated for their unique contributions to society.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Someone that drives drunk is as potentially lethal as a drunk walking down the sidewalk shooting a 9mm at random. Neither is likely to hit someone, but the threat is obvious.

    Oh and for the record, I do agree in principal with Tom Wright, it's just a matter of establishing something rational.

    For example, the standards for discharging a firearm in my county make it almost impossible to legally do so.

    More to the point, since we have public roadways, the standards will be affected by politics and pressure groups like MADD.

  • ||

    "Jacob has already introduced the evidence, I don't plan to recap it. "

    I am sorry. I read the article and didn't see any evidence. Or even clear reasoning.

  • ||

    Mainstreamman: Thanks! I always knew it wasn't the drunk driving, it was the availability of the booze in the first place! Prohibition, woo hoo! Ban booze=ban drunken driving forever!!! Mua-ha-ha-ha...

  • ||

    "If you plan on the what if route, that is a mighty slippery grade. That's the argument for banning guns and dope and Big Macs."

    That slippery slope works both ways. You are using the what if someone innocent is sanctioned argument.

    The ability to ask what if and come up with a reasonable answer is an ability that has served humans well as a species.

    "Mainstreamman: Thanks! I always knew it wasn't the drunk driving, it was the availability of the booze in the first place! Prohibition, woo hoo! Ban booze=ban drunken driving forever!!! Mua-ha-ha-ha..."

    Dude. You are not paying attention. It is the drunk driving. Making liqour available on Sundays increased the number of people available with alcohol in their blood, which allows us to compare the effect of alcohol on auto death rates. I never suggested prohibition.

  • ||

    I am surprised that no one has suggested that a urine sample rather than a Breathalyzer test be used to start the car.

  • ||

    Don't be diappointed, you just did.

  • ||

    """I guess New Mexico's officials have never heard of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc""""

    Hummm.... Government officials not understanding a fallacy of cause... That's news.
    Critical thinking have never been government's strong suit.

    """The science, however, disagrees with you. The point of the science is that BAC as low as .025 or so has measurable effects on abilities important for driving, that levels above .05 consistently cause driving errors, and that both of these levels of BAC are below the level at which you feel drunk. A BAC of 0.08 is well above the level at which consistent errors are made, but is at a level where most people will have a subjective feeling of having had a couple of drinks. At BAC of 0.08, your judgment is not impaired as much as your driving ability, you should take a cab."""""

    I'm not so sure science really agrees, mostly because one's tolerence is usually not a factor. In your example, I would have to ask if there was a baseline for driving errors when the test subjects (if there were any) were sober.

    I do not believe there have been any non-biased studies. Most the people that produce these studies have a vested interested in lowering the DUI BAC rate.

  • ||

    Oooppss. The above should have said

    I'm not so sure science disagrees.

    Not agrees

    Sorry

  • ||

    A well-funded "public health" group calling for more regulations, control, and power? Shocking.

  • tomWright||

    "I'm not so sure science really agrees, mostly because one's tolerence is usually not a factor. In your example, I would have to ask if there was a baseline for driving errors when the test subjects (if there were any) were sober.

    I do not believe there have been any non-biased studies. Most the people that produce these studies have a vested interested in lowering the DUI BAC rate."

    The TV show Mythbusters did a test of this last season, (or prior one?), where they drove a small test course for a time target sober, then drank enough booze to meet the legal limit on a breathylizer, (not sure if .08 or .10), and then repeated the same course. The effects of the alchohol were obvious. While not definitive, it did illustrate what previous studies have shown.

  • ||

    Not too many people race to beat the clock home after drinking, though. If you break speed or swerve, you get what you deserve.

  • ||

    The president of MADD is named Chuck Hurley? Am I the only one who finds this hilarious?

  • ||

    Mainstream Man wrote:

    That slippery slope works both ways. You are using the what if someone innocent is sanctioned argument.

    Forgive me if I have misread what you intended, but I do beleive that in most cases we are presumed innocent until proven guilty...in this regard, I don't beleive the slippery slope is supposed to work both ways.

  • edna||

    bac is a flawed proxy for impairment. if one wants to eliminate (or realistically, reduce) impaired driving, stop checking bac and measure impairment directly- memory, reaction time, peripheral vision, multitasking. a rather simple console test would do it and eliminate the "have the 6 year old play blow-in-the-tube to start the car" workaround.

    advantages include encompassing of dui from dope, from being overly tired, antihistamines, what-have-you.

  • grylliade||

    The point of the science is that BAC as low as .025 or so has measurable effects on abilities important for driving, that levels above .05 consistently cause driving errors, and that both of these levels of BAC are below the level at which you feel drunk.

    Neither of which is particularly relevant to whether you should be driving at those BACs. Is impairment at 0.05 worse than that caused by driving tired, or switching a CD in the car, or managing four kids while driving? That, I think, is the relevant standard, not whether or not you're impaired at 0.05 (or 0.08 or whatever).

    I'll have to find the actual citation, but almost all fatalities caused by a drunk driver (not just with a drunk driver involved) involve a BAC of over 0.15. People with a BAC of under 0.15, while impaired, don't generally drive badly enough to cause accidents, which should I think be the relevant standard, not whether or not your reaction time is affected in a laboratory environment.

  • edna||

    one more thing- everyone please congratulate me for not making the expected ethnic bad-driving joke. fellow sf bay area residents know what i mean...

  • ||

    edna,

    You hit the nail on the head. BAC does not always correspond to driving ability. The idea that a chemical analysis can determine something like this is absurd, and it results in many an injustice...regardless of what the controlled-lab-studies say. If you want to talk about lab testing, how about the fact that tests have proven conclusively that talking on a cellphone while driving impairs driving ability as much as a .10 BAC? But do people go to prison and have their lives ruined because they were driving while chatting? No, they don't even get a ticket most places. Meanwhile, someone who demonstrated no impaired driving ability, but blew a .08, gets prison time, massive fines, revoked license, crazy lawyer's fees, etc. In no way is this a just or fair system of measurement...just as speeding is not a just or fair method of determining driving safety.

  • ||

    "one more thing- everyone please congratulate me for not making the expected ethnic bad-driving joke. fellow sf bay area residents know what i mean..."

    What about a drunken Indian joke, since New Mexico was a part of the conversation?

  • Paul McNamara||

    Seems the potential for a technological slippery slope is here along with the legal one. Here are a few possibilities:
    http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/9277

  • ||

    "The point of the science is that BAC as low as .025 or so has measurable effects on abilities important for driving, that levels above .05 consistently cause driving errors, and that both of these levels of BAC are below the level at which you feel drunk."

    "abilities important for driving"? Most of the things that we do in a car, which are perfectly legal, have measurable effects on abilities important for driving. Eating, talking, on the phone, playing with your iPod or radio, looking for a CD, yelling at your kids, being tired, etc., etc. None of those impairments are particularly illegal until they cause harm. As it should be with alcohol.

  • edna||

    john, most of the indians around here stick to lassi, especially the sikh truckers.

  • ||

    The TV show Mythbusters did a test of this last season, (or prior one?), where they drove a small test course for a time target sober, then drank enough booze to meet the legal limit on a breathylizer, (not sure if .08 or .10), and then repeated the same course. The effects of the alchohol were obvious. While not definitive, it did illustrate what previous studies have shown.

    If I remember correctly, it was a legal limit vs. talking on a cell phone comparison, with the cell phone being more dangerous. Unless you mean a different episode.

  • ||

    -edna

    If you wont say it then I will. Gay Asians are terrible drivers, we all know that by now. And we need to invent a technology to prevent them from starting a car.

  • ||

    Hi,

    I drink and drive almost nightly, and have never been in an accident (that was my fault).

    I'm also good with electronics.

    I HOPE the put this into use as I'll make a fortune supplying a way to override/bypass this system...

  • ed||

    Last time I was called for jury duty was for a DUI case. I told them during voir dire that I would not vote to convict based solely on BAC but that I could vote to convict if there was evidence of actual driving disability.

    Obviously I was excused from the jury.

    I wonder what would happen if that became commonplace.

  • ||

    """The TV show Mythbusters did a test of this last season, (or prior one?), where they drove a small test course for a time target sober, then drank enough booze to meet the legal limit on a breathylizer, (not sure if .08 or .10), and then repeated the same course. The effects of the alchohol were obvious. While not definitive, it did illustrate what previous studies have shown.""""


    But the studies are touted as definitive proof so, with "definitive" being the operative word, Mythbusters did not fully back the study.

    Sure, it's possible that someone can make more mistakes after 2 beers, but there are normal activities that can do it too. Trying to hurry from one place to another, various forms of distraction, and mood such as being angry could also be a factor to cause more errors.

  • ||

    bac is a flawed proxy for impairment. if one wants to eliminate (or realistically, reduce) impaired driving, stop checking bac and measure impairment directly- memory, reaction time, peripheral vision, multitasking. a rather simple console test would do it and eliminate the "have the 6 year old play blow-in-the-tube to start the car" workaround.

    A good DUI lawyer will pick apart roadside tests. If the police officer made a single mistake in the assessment or even just doesn't handle him/herself well on the stand, the alleged drunk driver walks. BAC is hard evidence that's a lot more difficult to discount. That's why it's overused.

  • edna||

    that's why a console test is superior, whether for roadside sobriety or as a go/no go for starting a car- electronically recorded and scored, no subjectivity or he-said-he-said.

  • ||

    "Mothers Against Drunk Driving looks forward to the day when everyone has to prove his sobriety before starting his car."

    If MADD is successful, I hope they put away a ton of money for law suits.

    If my daughter has an asthma attack at 11:00 at night and my BA level of 0.08 prevents me from starting the car, I will be both mightily pissed and litigious.

  • ||

    From wikipeida:

    Candace Lynne Lightner (born May 30, 1946), was the organizer and founding president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In 1980, Ms. Lightner's 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunken hit-and-run driver as she walked down a suburban street in California. "I promised myself on the day of Cari's death that I would fight to make this needless homicide count for something positive in the years ahead" Candy Lightner later wrote. In recent years, Lightner has broken with the organization, as she believed it has become an advocate of neo-prohibitionism and the establishment of a so-called nanny state.
    ...
    With the passage of time, MADD decided to eliminate all driving after drinking any amount of alcoholic beverage. Ms. Lightner disagreed with this focus and asserted that "police ought to be concentrating their resources on arresting drunk drivers-not those drivers who happen to have been drinking. I worry that the movement I helped create has lost direction."

    Ms. Lightner left MADD in 1984 and disagrees with its change in goals. The organization "has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned," she says. "I didn't start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving."

  • Lazlo||

    People from New Mexico tell me that a lot of places in New Mexico are dry or severely restrict sales of alcohol.

    The Navajo reservation is dry, as are at least some of the pueblos (and there are a lot of pueblos in NM). And as you point out, things are pretty spread out, with most of the state either ranchland, farmland, or government land of one type or another. That's probably the biggest factor in NM's DWI problem.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Given that the alcoholism rate among law enforcement officers (LEO) is twice that of the general population, shouldn't they be putting this device in police cars?

  • Allen||

    Anonymous Coward ---> Can you post a source for that? I've never heard of that one before.


    I'm with Lightner on MADD. Drunk Driving is a problem but MADD's making me think they'd like to see alcohol go the way of smoking.

  • ||

    "Forgive me if I have misread what you intended, but I do beleive that in most cases we are presumed innocent until proven guilty...in this regard, I don't beleive the slippery slope is supposed to work both ways."

    There is a difference between the assumption of innocence and the definition of the crime. In this case we are talking about how you define "DUI" which means that you have a slippery slope both ways. Too strict and you get too many false positives (innocents accused for no good reason) too loose and you get too many false negatives (allowing dangerously drunk individuals to drive without sanciton).

    "Neither of which is particularly relevant to whether you should be driving at those BACs. Is impairment at 0.05 worse than that caused by driving tired, or switching a CD in the car, or managing four kids while driving? That, I think, is the relevant standard, not whether or not you're impaired at 0.05 (or 0.08 or whatever)."

    All of those things are part of the base rate that alcohol adds additional risk to.

    "I'll have to find the actual citation, but almost all fatalities caused by a drunk driver (not just with a drunk driver involved) involve a BAC of over 0.15. People with a BAC of under 0.15, while impaired, don't generally drive badly enough to cause accidents, which should I think be the relevant standard, not whether or not your reaction time is affected in a laboratory environment."

    That is how they came up with the 0.08. It is the level at which you get consistently higher levels of accidents. They decided that doing something that leads to harm less than death should also be sanctioned. I don't know why you would only use death as a standard in this case.

  • ||

    "I would have to ask if there was a baseline for driving errors when the test subjects (if there were any) were sober."

    Indeed there would be as part of the study design in most of these studies. There certainly was in the studies I cited.

    "I do not believe there have been any non-biased studies. Most the people that produce these studies have a vested interested in lowering the DUI BAC rate."

    That is an unfounded assumption. There are interests on both sides of the debate that fund research. There may be no such thing as an unbiased assessment in the world of human reasoning, but there are ways to minimize the effects of bias. The scientific method is a pretty good process for doing just that.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Anonymous Coward ---> Can you post a source for that? I've never heard of that one before.

    http://tearsofacop.com/police/articles/turvey.html

    8) 10% of the general population who drink become alcoholics; for police it's 23% [7].


    http://www.lvmpd.com/bureaus/peap_about.html

    Law enforcement employees have higher rates of heart disease and our alcoholism rate is twice the national average. One reason is that we learn mistrust as a coping skill. In the academy officers are taught that everything that comes out of a person's mouth is a lie, until proven otherwise. That works as an interview approach but not in our personal lives. It's no wonder we can't unload our backpacks when we don't trust enough to share with anyone.

    Officers are 8 times more likely to kill themselves than to die by homicide. Every 22 hours an officer in this country chooses suicide as an escape from the pain. The packs on their backs becomes so heavy and painful that death seems easier than living. Something needs to be done. There is a tremendous need for somewhere to turn.


  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Edna, so there I was driving along when some idiot did something really stupid. I looked over at the guy, who's ethnicity was apparent, and shrugged my shoulders and said ohh, well that explains it

    Not from SF regards, TWC

  • edna||

    a good friend of mine (wine drinking buddy) comes from a --------- family; he's third generation american. he disabused me of my idea that it's just a cultural thing- he says, "it's in the genes. i've lived here all my life and i'm an amazingly shitty driver. my sister is worse. god knows how there got to be a billion and a half of us."

    they all know that shrug. dwo and all that.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Dude, Edna sad wine drinking buddy

    Big Smiles.

    Had some fab wine today with one of those wine drinking buddies.

  • ||

    Drunk driving is a stupid thing to do, but would the proposed solution work? I heard of Russians taking vodka enemas to keep the breath cleaner, which sounds a bit internet-mythish but possibly true. And I imagine the ease of making a secondary ignition system isn't going to deter some others.

    In other words, it's a waste of time as an attempt to stop hardcore drinker/drivers.

    And another note: drunk drivers get forced to pay restitution and fines while in prison. Say you get convicted of drunk driving and have some time to do. You get your ten-cents/hour to forty-cents/hour prison job, and you have to give some percentage to the state. Punishment fits the crime, right? Maybe, but the guy in the next cell who sold drugs, raped, molested, killed, assaulted, extorted, flimflammed old ladies, or whatever probably gets to keep their entire paycheck. So in the scheme of things, if you're going to prison you should hurt somebody poor if you want a better stay.

    Maybe the extra punishment serves a purpose. But shouldn't it be applied more often? It reminds me of the notification I can get when a sex offender moves in (or back) to the neighborhood: thanks for the info, but did any murderers or robbers move in? Any drug dealers? How about mail thieves? Bad drivers? People with poor taste in exterior paint? Why only sex offenders?

  • edna||

    nothin' wrong with wine drinking buddies, especially when there's a magnum of '95 ogier la belle helene involved.

  • ||

    In Texas, any driver can refuse to have BAC taken without penalty or assumption of crime.

    I was on a jury that was considering putting a third time drunk driver away for 10+ years. I was one of two holdouts because I wasn't entirely convinced the driver was drunk. He was supposedly on a 2am mercy mission to pick someone up.

    The final bit of evidence that finally convinced me was that he too well-dressed. Though I think I would have finally given in, anyway. There was plenty of evidence, though it could have been explained away by sleep deprivation and nerves. But he seemed to well-dressed and composed on the videos to have that problem.

    The arresting officer was asked on the stand to replicate the roadside test by the defense. When he marginally failed, the prosecutor asked him if he was taking cold medications--he was.

    That impressed me so that I don't take cold medications if I plan to drive soon, but didn't stop up from convicting the defendant.

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