Can Drunk Driving Be Funny?

The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten wrote a very funny column a couple weeks ago, in which he gets schnockered in a driving simulator and documents the results.

Recently, he discussed the process by which a column making light of drunk driving might get approved, and offered an interesting insight into the kinds of topics that are still a bridge too far, even in an age where presidential candidates admit to doing "a little blow."

When I first proposed the idea to [my editor] Tom the Butcher, he was very concerned about one possible result: What if I continued to ace the test, well into staggering drunkitude?

"Well," I said, "I can make that funny."

"I'm sure you can," he said, "but I will not publish it."

A spirited and enlightening conversation ensued, the details of which I cannot go into here for reasons of propriety. In essence I was arguing for the transcendence of truth, and the Butcher was arguing for the transcendence of moral and civic responsibility. Both arguments had merit, but he had rank. 

Fortunately, Weingarten's driving after a bottle and a half of wine on no sleep and an empty stomach was...well, I'll let the test administrator tell it: "You ran off the road after a curve. You crashed into a bus. You killed a pedestrian. You had a frontal collision with a car driving in the opposite direction in the other lane. You killed a bicyclist. As the test ended, you were beginning a dangerous maneuver that might have caused a rollover if it had continued."

All's well that ends in a fiery crash, I always say. But seriously, would it have been a public service to spike the column if Weingarten had slept well, eaten a big dinner, and been more or less OK after a few drinks?

More on the ever-falling acceptable blood alcohol level here.

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  • ||

    The Editor told Weingarten that he wanted him to fail the test, no? Since it was a BS test anyway, it seems like Weingarten hammed it up so much that nobody could take it seriously. After all, the vast majority of people have had a few drinks, yet they don't crash into everything and roll their cars over.

  • Naga Sadow||

    If only they could offer this for PS3 this game would be great to play . . . when drunk of course.

  • ||

    Lamar is right. It was a BS test. If he had had a couple of drinks on a full stomach, he would have done great and revealed the nasty secret no one wants to tell.

  • ||

    Anyone see the Mythbusters when they tested all of the Breathalyzer work-arounds? Does anyone actually believe if, say, the penny under the tongue, really worked they would have been allowed to say so? or when they tested ways to beat speed radar and lasers?

    A heart-warming story on police speed radar.

  • ||

    Half past 5 I'm in the pub
    Six O'clock it's home for grub
    Eight O'clock I'm back to the bar
    Sod the walk I'll take the car
    [Chorus:]
    Knock it back
    Have another one
    Drinking and driving is so much fun
    In the motor off you go
    Not too fast and not too slow
    Keep your head and keep your cool
    Must avoid that rightful pull
    As you meander down the road
    Don't forget your highway code
    See the spot and take your pick
    Out of the car to be sick!.....

    Yup, "Drinking and Driving" can definitely be funny.

  • ||

    If only they could offer this for PS3 this game would be great to play . . . when drunk of course.

    Ever try to play "Burnout" while drunk? Fucking impossible.
    Also, in "GTA IV," you can get slobbering drunk and drive around, smashing into pedestrians and cars, though the cops will be on your ass in about two seconds.

    On topic: I once wrote a column about being a heterosexual male attending a LGBT cross-dressing beauty contest, and the irony of meeting a heterosexual female -- and getting laid at the end of the night.
    The editors had no problem with it, but then again, I live in a very liberal town.

  • Introspective Guy||

    I drink and drive often. It's fun.
    The very few people I've killed probably deserved it, I tell myself,
    as I drink to forget their faces.

  • Naga Sadow||

    SugarFree,

    There's some kind of bizarre block on your link. I'm looking into it.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    This reminds me of a true story: A sweet-looking family of four and their dog walk into a talent agent's office. They say, "We've got an act for you." The agent allows them to demonstrate it in his office. They take off their clothes and perform a violent orgy of incest and bestiality. The mother gets drunk as hell, stumbles out of the office naked, drives the family car around town in a drunken rage, kills four people with the vehicle, and crashes the car in the agent's office. The entire family takes a bow, and the father says, "It's called 'The Aristocrats!"

  • Naga Sadow||

    Jaime Kelly,

    If your story is true, you are a god among men.

  • ||

    Jesus, Jamie.
    I'm applying at your paper.
    (However if I were your editor I would have made you enter the contest.)

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    I mean, "'The Aristocrats!'" Fuck!

  • Naga Sadow||

    Nevermind SugarFree. My dumb friends were using my computer yesterday and they seemed to have set my computer to not accept any cookies. My apologies.

  • ||

    Naga,

    Probably has to do with my database permissions. Anyway, here's what it's about:

    Cluster of testicular cancer in police officers exposed to hand-held radar
    Dr. Robert L. Davis, MD, F. Kash Mostofi, MD

    Abstract
    Within a cohort of 340 police officers, six incident cases of testicular cancer occurred between 1979 and 1991. Occupational use of hand-held radar was the only shared risk factor among all six officers, and all routinely held the radar gun directly in close proximity to their testicles. Health effects of occupational radar use have not been widely studied, and further research into a possible association with testicular cancer is warranted.

  • ||

    And I bet it would have been a better column had you gone home with another heterosexual guy and got laid.
    Just sayin'...

  • Fluffy||

    So basically we have a Washington Post editor on the record saying that the Post will withhold truthful information if publishing that information will undermine a social cause with which the paper's editors agree.

    It's striking to me that this is unremarkable to everyone.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Fluffy,
    The real scandal is that the Post editor is driving the reins of a newspaper while drunk with power.

  • Episiarch||

    Brian, that was pretty funny, but it can't beat Cartman's impression of 9/11 victims.

  • ||

    Well, it's certainly unremarkable to me, but I've been in the biz a while. What's remarkable is that Weingarten was allowed to discuss the fact in his blog, so give the Post props for that.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Fluffy,

    My cynicism is almost like a superpower for me.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    I admit you have me there, Episiarch. Cartman is the Mozart of bad taste.

  • Episiarch||

    It's striking to me that this is unremarkable to everyone.

    It's utterly un-striking to me that an editor at a major newspaper would do this, and I don't think I'm alone. So maybe that's why nobody is remarking upon it.

  • ||

    And apparently his editor has enough sense of humor to let Weingarten call him "The Butcher."
    Of course, Weingarten is a superstar columnist, so he probably gets away with far, far more than would most newsroom grunts.

  • ||

    If you don't mind being hit on by guys, gay bars are a great place to pick up mildly overweight, desperate women. You look progressive and gay-allied, you have almost no competition and the angry cockblocker friend position is usually filled with a gay guy who actually wants his hag to get laid in order to take pressure off of being this girls only emotional support system. But, fair warning, they often cry after sex and you don't want to give them your real name.

    I only have the word of my slightly metrosexual single friends to back this up.

  • Naga Sadow||

    SugarFree,

    LOL! That's pretty fucking low . . . I like it.

  • ||

    This reminds me of a classic television episode from WKRP in Cincinnati, Fish Story.

    Officer, testing Johnny's reaction time: According to this, completely sober, he has the reaction time of a man who has had six vodka martinis.

    [later]

    Officer: This test has been given to hundreds of people! No one's ever got better!!

    [later]

    Officer: You have obviously built up a super-human tolerance to alcohol.

    Johnny Fever: Yes, it's true, it was once sort of a hobby.

  • ||

    They create these bullshit simulators because they don't want to test people in a real environment with real results.

  • The Expatriate||

    Too many people nowadays are too scared of dark humor or satire. First it was The New Yorker cartoon (who the hell could take THAT as racist, it's the New Yorker for Christ's sake!!!), now it's this.

    To paraphrase a recent Slate columnist, weak thinkers fear strong humor.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    False test. When you remove the real consequences of drunk driving, it's unsurprising that a drunk person would get into accidents in a simulator. Driving becomes a game then.

    Note that I am not claiming that drinking does not impair driving skills.

    I...um...had a friend who would relate to me stories about driving drunk. He told me that he was much more focused on maintaining course and speed because he know he'd be completely screwed if he got pulled over. That doesn't mean he thought he wasn't a hazard, but he was at least conscious of both his impairment and the consequences of screwing up. Obviously not concerned enough to abstain altogether, but he didn't believe he was Jimmy Johnson either.

  • Episiarch||

    I only have the word of my slightly metrosexual single friends to back this up.

    Mm'kay. Lies are bad, mm'kay?

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    To paraphrase the late George Carlin (audio NSFW), it's hilarious to imagine Porky Pig driving drunk while raping Elmer Fudd.

  • ||

    "If you don't mind being hit on by guys, gay bars are a great place to pick up mildly overweight, desperate women. You look progressive and gay-allied, you have almost no competition and the angry cockblocker friend position is usually filled with a gay guy who actually wants his hag to get laid in order to take pressure off of being this girls only emotional support system. But, fair warning, they often cry after sex and you don't want to give them your real name."

    I have to admit, that all makes a lot of sense. The cockblocker friend is always a problem. That is a pretty ingenius way of getting around it and not all fag hags are bad looking. Some are damn good looking.

  • ||

    Cluster of testicular cancer in police officers exposed to hand-held radar.

    Am I a bad person because this news pleasures me?

  • ||

    We used to simulators in drivres ed back in high school. I can remember getting blitzed before school a few times and doing the simulator. Honestly, I think I at least did well enough not to make a spectical out of myself.

  • Elemenope||

    Am I a bad person because this news pleasures me?

    If so, you have company in hell.

  • ||

    No RC what is sad is that the damn things probably do cause cancer and state local governments have covered it up to keep from losing the revenue from speeding tickets.

  • Episiarch||

    We used to simulators in drivres ed back in high school. I can remember getting blitzed before school a few times and doing the simulator.

    I was a Safe Rides volunteer in high school (to pad my resume for college). A few times I...well, you can guess.

  • Jennifer||

    Radar guns should be mandatory gear for all police SWAT teams. You know, to uh ... protect them from fast cars ... or something like that ... it's for the children.

  • Orange Line Special||

    The list of anti-social behaviors endorsed by Reason grows. If I didn't know better, I'd think Reason was a secret project designed to discredit libertarianism.

    P.S. Click here to take a test

  • ||

    What is 'drunk driving'.Is it when you have a bottle of vodka and kill some one or,is it when you have a couple of drinks,get stopped for a taillight (or in a road block).The definition keeps changing and is so broad I'm not sure what it is.Maybe we should do this for other crimes.If you a 40 year old male watching Miley Cyrus at home alone you a sex offender

  • Naga Sadow||

    Lonewacko!!!!

    *shakes fist in air*

  • ||

    I only have the word of my slightly metrosexual single friends to back this up.

    Mm'kay. Lies are bad, mm'kay?


    What, now I have to prove a guy who wears white pants is metrosexual? Jeez. He also shaves his junk, I guess you want me to try and get you a pic of that? Pervert.

  • ||

    "I'm sure you can," he said, "but I will not publish it."



    Journalism no longer even pretends to be objective. Sigh.

  • Naga Sadow||

    SugarFree,

    Great strawman defense but that leaves open the question of how you know your "friend" shaves his junk.

  • Episiarch||

    You win this round, NutraSweet, but one battle is not the war.

  • Episiarch||

    ...or maybe not.

  • Elemenope||

    Lonewacko!!!!

    *shakes fist in air*


    There are more productive things to be done with one's fist when the Lonewacko is about.

    Now let's see how long it takes for Lonewacko to get it if I add the proviso that I'm not talking about assault.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Those willing to look into the issue of BAC and driving will find a couple of consistent findings from the research:

    1) BAC around 0.04-5 has an easily measurable effect on driving performance, reaction time, and judgment. Most people do not feel like they have had anything to drink at this BAC.

    2) BAC around 0.08 is the level at which most people report that they can tell they have been drinking. This is also the legal limit in the US, for the most part.

    This means the law is set at the BAC where you are knowingly driving under the influence, not at the level that has a measurable increased risk of an accident. This seems like a pretty reasonable approach to me.

    Now, of course, it could be argued that you should only punish people for the consequences of their decision to drive drunk if and when those consequences impact another person. But once you accept the idea of prohibiting driving while drunk, then some metric for measuring "drunk" is needed.

    For those proposing a different level, please present the evidence base for the BAC you prefer.

    After all, the vast majority of people have had a few drinks, yet they don't crash into everything and roll their cars over.

    And yet a large percentage of those that crash into stuff have had a few drinks and a BAC above 0.08.

  • ||

    but that leaves open the question of how you know your "friend" shaves his junk

    I couldn't shut my eyes fast enough when he insisted on proving it. And my wife insisted on telling the story to just about everyone we knew for the next few years with all the pale, hairless details.

    As for strawmen, I told the story as it was told to me. I was just try to help you guys get some sad strange.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Elemonope,

    He might enjoy that to much. I would rather go the route of the NYPD and just handcuff him, shackle his feet, then sodomize him with a plunger.

  • Episiarch||

    I think LoneWacko's sad, obsessive existence is punishment enough without fisting him. Not that I wouldn't laugh.

  • ||

    "And yet a large percentage of those that crash into stuff have had a few drinks and a BAC above 0.08."

    What is a large percentage? Further, how many of those people would have crashed anyway. The defeinition of alchohol related has been fubared to include people who happen to be drunk and in an accident that was in no way their fault. I would like to see the statistics you claim back that up and also explanation of the methodolgy used to come up with them.

  • ||

    If I didn't know better, I'd think Reason was a secret project designed to discredit libertarianism.

    Nah. Lonewhackoff, that is your bailwick.

  • ||

    So basically we have a Washington Post editor on the record saying that the Post will withhold truthful information if publishing that information will undermine a social cause with which the paper's editors agree.

    It's striking to me that this is unremarkable to everyone.



    Sorry, Fluffy, but this surprises me just as much as the revelation that "expert military analysts" on television newscasts were actively participating in a Pentagon propaganda campaign.

  • Elemenope||

    Episiarch --

    Fisting *him*?!! Oh God no! That would require physical contact with The Lonewacko! You might catch what he's carrying!

    Just merely fisting *anyone* in his presence would cause the "anti-social behaviors endorsed by Reason" part of his walnut-sized brain to melt into a puddle of maple walnut ice cream.

    Proving that he's a closet Canadian agent.

  • Elemenope||

    Naga Sadow --

    I would, however, endorse the NYPD themselves going to town on him.

    It would be filth wallowing in filth.

    They have to use those skills in *some* positive way, right?

  • Episiarch||

    Sorry dude, but you are now officially the LoneWackoFister.

  • Neu Mejican||

    John,

    There are lots of studies out there.
    Try google scholar.

    From memory relative risk of BAC 0.08 is typically found to be around 11 or 12 (using the low end of the CI) in the well designed studies.

  • ||

    Drinking and driving is irresponsible. I support the concept of drunk driving laws, but as in all things governmantal, we have progressed to overkill. The stats on those who cause the mayhem on our highways while drunk do not show huge jumps until the .12 or so range. I'm perfectly fine with a .10 and the elimination of sobriety checkpoints.

    We do similar calculations all the time with pollution controls. You address the 1% that does 90% of the damage.

    Alas, MADD is a well funded and very loud squeaking wheel.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Elemenope,

    LoL! It's all about balance . . . and having LoneWacko sodomized with a plunger.

  • ||

    Lamar/John,

    Did you RTFA? The first time through the test, he drank about 1/3 bottle of wine and the administrator said he did better than when he was sober (though he drove faster). Then after a full bottle he took it again and did pretty poorly. It's only on the third time throug, after a bottle and a half, that true mayhem broke out.

  • ||

    "From memory relative risk of BAC 0.08 is typically found to be around 11 or 12 (using the low end of the CI) in the well designed studies."

    I am fully aware of those studies. I am talking about your claim about a large percentage of accidents being caused by people with above .08. That implies that a .09 is dangerous. I don't think it is. Above .08 includes ourragous figures like .17, which really is dangerous but also includes .09 and .10, which are much less dangerous. I think J sub D gives about as reasonable position on the subject as you can.

  • The LoneWackoFister||

    He's *my* bitch. You leave him the hell alone!

  • kinnath||

    2) BAC around 0.08 is the level at which most people report that they can tell they have been drinking. This is also the legal limit in the US, for the most part.

    I can tell when I've taken my antihistamines. That doesn't make me a dangerous driver.

    I can tell when I haven't had enough sleep. That doesn't make me a dangerous driver.

    The issues is when a person has had enough alcohol that the person is then a hazard to other people. It has not been proven to me that 0.08 represents a serious threat.

    This means the law is set at the BAC where you are knowingly driving under the influence, not at the level that has a measurable increased risk of an accident.

    That is true, but that does not make it a valid point to set the BAC. If 0.08 does not have a measerable increase in the risk of causing an accident, it should not be criminal.

    This seems like a pretty reasonable approach to me.

    We disagree.

    Now, of course, it could be argued that you should only punish people for the consequences of their decision to drive drunk if and when those consequences impact another person.

    Criminal charges should be commensurate with the actual harm caused or by the threatened harm when the probablity of causing an accident is high.

    But once you accept the idea of prohibiting driving while drunk, then some metric for measuring "drunk" is needed.

    I don't accept that.

    In the good old days (if they ever exited), the best measure of impairment is when other people (like an officer of the law) could clearly see someone was impaired.

    I would throw away the breathalizer and make the police videotape every interaction with the public. Let a jury decide if the driver was visibly impaired.

    Objective measures are good, except when they're not. Objective measures are the first step towards institutionalized stupidity (like zero tolerance policies) where everyone knows a applied punishment is contrary to common sense, but what the hell the rules say you can't do that.

    By the way, I have no problem putting repeat offenders or someone that causes a death in jail for a very, very long time. We need to punish people that do bad things, not criminalize people that blow 0.08.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican is right.Most have a bac above .08 in crashes,it's usually around .15 and above.He's making a factually correct statement and still not telling the truth.Still ,almost 90% of deaths on the high way are caused by sober drivers.

  • Neu Mejican||

    JsubD,

    You get an additional 8% or so reduction in mayhem with 0.08 compared to 0.10, but I agree with you that it is a matter of determining whether you want to get at those that do 90% of the damage or include a few more to get at 98% of the damage.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Kinnath,

    That is true, but that does not make it a valid point to set the BAC. If 0.08 does not have a measerable increase in the risk of causing an accident, it should not be criminal.

    See above...the increased risk is around 11 or 12 times that of sober driving.

    In the good old days (if they ever exited), the best measure of impairment is when other people (like an officer of the law) could clearly see someone was impaired.

    No chance for that method to result in false positives...

    I would throw away the breathalizer and make the police videotape every interaction with the public. Let a jury decide if the driver was visibly impaired.


    Why would adding BAC into that picture be a negative?

    Objective measures are good, except when they're not. Objective measures are the first step towards institutionalized stupidity (like zero tolerance policies) where everyone knows a applied punishment is contrary to common sense, but what the hell the rules say you can't do that.

    I would agree with you if it were not for the fact that the BAC is used to charge while the jury decides the guilt and take arguments for exceptions.

  • Neu Mejican||

    John,

    I am talking about your claim about a large percentage of accidents being caused by people with above .08. That implies that a .09 is dangerous. I don't think it is. Above .08 includes ourragous figures like .17, which really is dangerous but also includes .09 and .10, which are much less dangerous. I think J sub D gives about as reasonable position on the subject as you can.

    Again, you can find this figures yourself, but including BAC down to 0.08 moves you from something like 55% of *accidents (BAC >0.10) to 63% (BAC>0.08).

    exact figures will vary depending upon whether you include only accidents causing injury, accidents causing death, or just accidents.

  • ||

    Many years ago, a co-worker challenged me to a "race" on some sort of arcade simulator, in the bar where we were drinking; in my admittedly "impaired" condition, I set a lap record while beating him handily, despite having at least two wheels in the dirt for much of the race.

    That's not how I drive in real life. Impaired, or otherwise.

    Put me down in the "penalties should reflect actual damage" camp; any driver who causes a death while under the influence should be tried as a murderer.

    Checkpoints are complete bullshit.

  • kinnath||

    That is true, but that does not make it a valid point to set the BAC. If 0.08 does not have a measerable increase in the risk of causing an accident, it should not be criminal.

    See above...the increased risk is around 11 or 12 times that of sober driving.

    I knew you were going to reply to that. I intended to write "significant increase".

    There is a measurable increase (probably approaching infinity) of my causing an accident if I put the key in the ingnition and turn the engine on compared to my staying home.

    "11 or 12" times means jack shit if you don't say what the baseline is.

  • Neu Mejican||

    To clarify my sloppy post...that 63% is of accidents involving any alcohol at all.

    Michael Pack is essentially correct that around 10% of traffic deaths can be attributed to drunk driving.

  • M.A.W.D.||

    What about the wimminz? When can we get these dangerous drivers off the road?

  • ||

    Nue Mejican,In Ohio,and many states,.08 is taken as guilt .There are 2 charges,OMVI and driving with a BAC at or above .08,In some states you can not dispute a breathe test.Few ever go to a jury trial,it's just to expensive.You also can test below the limit and still be charged.When you use the term 'sober driver',most accidents are caused by sober but distracted drivers.Cell phones,passengers,C.D. players,food drinks and lack of sleep are a few.High speed for road conditions is also a major factor.

  • kinnath||

    To clarify my sloppy post...that 63% is of accidents involving any alcohol at all.

    I reject your statistic.

    You're looking at outcomes first then determining percentage that "include" alcohol as a factor. This informaiton may be factually true, but it is not particularly useful.

    I want to see probability of accident caused by a middle-aged engineer per mile driven. Show me the probabilities before and after consumption of varying levels of alcohol. Then we can calculate the real change in risk.

    I'm guessing the probability curve is asymptotic. What we want to know is where the knee in the curve is.

    I also expect that the change in risk at 0.08 BAC is actually less than driving a mini-van with three screaming kids in the back.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Kinnath,

    "significant increase" for most of these studies is well below the relative risk of 11-12 they find.

    Most people power their studies to find increased relative risk as small as 2-4.

    Baseline: about 2% of deaths in the US are caused by car accidents (40-50,000 per year).

  • ||

    Inattention and stupidity cause crashes; alcohol can be a contributing factor, as it makes some people both stupider and more inattentive than they ordinarily might be.

  • kinnath||

    I also expect that the change in risk at 0.08 BAC is actually less than driving a mini-van with three screaming kids in the back.

    By the way, I am perfectly willing to criminalize 30-something blondes, driving a mini-van full of kids, and yakking on the phone.

  • Neu Mejican||

    So, Kinnath, why not do your study?

    Here's what we've got so far: around 2% of deaths are from car accidents; Around 10% of deaths from car accidents involve alcohol; Around 2/3rds of alcohol related accidents involve BAC > 0.08.

  • kinnath||

    Here's what we've got so far: around 2% of deaths are from car accidents; Around 10% of deaths from car accidents involve alcohol; Around 2/3rds of alcohol related accidents involve BAC > 0.08.

    Distrubition dude; distribution.

    Oh, we also need complete statistics all on the stupid things that people do in cars to determine if chasing people with BAC of 0.08 to 0.10 is more important than fixing other problems first.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The quick calculation is that the law can be designed to prevent 3400 deaths a year (BAC >0.08) or 2750 deaths per year (BAC> 0.10).

  • ||

    Serious question. What does "involve alcohol" and "alcohol related" mean?

  • ||

    "Did you RTFA? The first time through the test, he drank about 1/3 bottle of wine and the administrator said he did better than when he was sober (though he drove faster). Then after a full bottle he took it again and did pretty poorly. It's only on the third time throug, after a bottle and a half, that true mayhem broke out."

    How does this contradict my original post? Just curious. 1/3 of a bottle of wine is not "a few drinks". A few drinks is more than 3, which is more like 3/4 of a bottle or more. And I was more interested in the fact that he hammed up the results because his editor made it clear that any real results would not be published.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Serious question. What does "involve alcohol" and "alcohol related" mean?

    Typically that one of the drivers has a measurable BAC level. That includes BAC as low as 0.01 for practical purposes.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Kinnath,

    Distrubition dude; distribution.

    Pay attention.

  • ||

    It also occurs to me that alcohol and other tested for drugs are the only factors in highway accident statistics that can be reliably determined after the fact.

    Honest officer, I was paying attention when it happened. I wasn't

    - Yelling at the kids in the back seat
    - Talking on my cell phone
    - Applying makeup
    - Dozing off
    - Masturbating

    The number of irresponsible/idiotic behaviors by drivers is uncountable.

    IOW, we don't have any idea what factors are contributatory/responsible for 90% of highway fatalities. If we took the driver's word for it, we wouldn't even know about the ten percent where alcohol is a contributing/causal factor.

    Nine out of ten times, we take the drivers word for it.

    The quick calculation is that the law can be designed to prevent 3400 deaths a year (BAC >0.08) or 2750 deaths per year (BAC> 0.10).

    Yep. It's a big goddamned country.

  • kinnath||

    Again, you can find this figures yourself, but including BAC down to 0.08 moves you from something like 55% of *accidents (BAC >0.10) to 63% (BAC>0.08).

    If you meant this post, you are far, far away from providing a complete distribution of probabilities of accident rate compared to BAC.

  • ||

    Still ,almost 90% of deaths on the high way are caused by sober drivers.

    Sounds like should outlaw driving sober.

    1/3 of a bottle of wine is not "a few drinks".

    Sounds like a couple of glasses to me, which would be a few drinks, i.e., more than one, less than several.

  • kinnath||

    Serious question. What does "involve alcohol" and "alcohol related" mean?

    Typically that one of the drivers has a measurable BAC level. That includes BAC as low as 0.01 for practical purposes.

    Useless, Useless, Useless.

    In how many accidents did the BAC of the DRIVER THAT CAUSED THE FUCKING ACCIDENT have a SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION to the cause of the accident.

    There are three kinds of liars in the world. Liars, Damn Liars, and Statisticians -- Mark Twain

  • ||

    Nue,as you stated,one of the drivers,it doesn't have to be the one who caused the accident.Many studies count passengers as well.Besides,using .01 as a baseline shows the bias.You might as well test for coffee or carrots.When people add in trace amounts to inflate numbers for 'alcohol related' you have to question their motives.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Kinnath,

    Google is your friend.
    Or, alternatively, you can write an NIH grant and do the study yourself.

    The figures you want are, for the most part, available.

    I have been concentrating on the BAC> 0.08...you catch an additional 8% or so of drivers at that level. You will get another 10-15% if you go to BAC>0.05 and end up accounting for about 80% of fatalities where one driver had alcohol in their system.

  • kinnath||

    1/3 of a bottle of wine is not "a few drinks".

    Standard pour is 1/5th of a bottle (5 to 6 ounces of a 750 ml bottle).

    One third of a bottle is not enough for a noticeable buzz -- far less than enough to hit BAC 0.08.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Kinnath,

    In how many accidents did the BAC of the DRIVER THAT CAUSED THE FUCKING ACCIDENT have a SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION to the cause of the accident.

    Ask God or come up with a method for discovering that causal pathway from accident records.

    Most studies that are willing to infer causation are hesitant to attribute a causal relationship at BAC

  • Neu Mejican||

    Hmmm...

    make that

    at BAC below 0.05.

  • ||

    "Sounds like a couple of glasses to me, which would be a few drinks, i.e., more than one, less than several."

    Not sure what the standard here is, but 1/3 of a bottle of wine is 250 mL, which translates into about 8.45 ounces. A typical serving of wine would be 5 ounces. So 1/3 a bottle would be either two skimpy glasses of wine, or one behemoth glass of wine.

  • Neu Mejican||

    When people add in trace amounts to inflate numbers for 'alcohol related' you have to question their motives.

    When people arbitrarily cut off one end of the distribution you need to question their methodology.

  • ||

    Kinnath!! You obsoleted me before I ever existedized comment.

  • kinnath||

    You will get another 10-15% if you go to BAC>0.05 and end up accounting for about 80% of fatalities where one driver had alcohol in their system.

    You keep saying that, but you are not proving causality in any way.

  • kinnath||

    Ask God or come up with a method for discovering that causal pathway from accident records.

    You want to criminalize 0.08. You ask God.

    Perhaps you shoule design an experiment (like the one in the article above) to measure the ACTUAL FUCKING AFFECT of alcohol.

    Most studies that are willing to infer causation are hesitant to attribute a causal relationship at BAC

    Liars, Damn Liars, and Statisticians.

  • Neu Mejican||

    kinnath | July 22, 2008, 3:07pm | #
    You will get another 10-15% if you go to BAC>0.05 and end up accounting for about 80% of fatalities where one driver had alcohol in their system.

    You keep saying that, but you are not proving causality in any way.


    Again, I would be interested in how you would design your study to prove causality from a review of accident records.

    Are you going to do a controlled experiment where you give drivers specific BAC and set them loose on the roads with in car video cameras to account for other potential confounders then count the bodies?

  • Zubon||

    distribution

    See figure 3 on page 5:
    http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810801.PDF

    For fatal crashes, 15% are 0.01-0.07% BAC, 28% are 0.08-0.14%, and 57% are 0.15%+. Table 5 breaks that down by state. (Testing data is too spotty in non-fatal crashes for me to trust it.)

    I like these numbers more than most, because they talk about drivers, not persons in the crash. 1/4 of pedestrians killed in crashes were drunk and/or on drugs at the time.

    On the question of "was the drunk at fault": not necessarily, but most alcohol-involved crashes are single vehicle crashes. There is no other driver to be at fault. Note also that alcohol has interaction effects with drowsiness. If you have 4 beers plus 4 beers worth of sleep deprivation, you are driving far worse than 8 beers. And 8 beers already puts you on the right side of that curve.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Kinnath,

    Perhaps you shoule design an experiment (like the one in the article above) to measure the ACTUAL FUCKING AFFECT of alcohol.

    There are literally hundreds of these studies.
    Where do you think the recommendations for BAC 0.08 came from?

    Most, actually, consider BAC 0.04-0.05 to be the level at which impairment becomes significantly likely to cause an accident.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Zubon,

    Thanks.

  • kinnath||

    There are literally hundreds of these studies.
    Where do you think the recommendations for BAC 0.08 came from?


    Then quote those studies. Leave percentages of accidents with any drive having a measurable BAC out of the discussion.

  • ||

    Neu,see where this is going?You and the others are reasonable people and the debate is reduced to small amounts that can not be proven to be dangerous.That's why I've always believed in using the reckless op laws.If your weaving,going off the road,at a high rate of speed or hit some one you should be held accountable.Catching social drinkers who pose a low risk makes no sense.Most people make mistakes when driving and fairly often.Using that as a excuse to arrest someone who had a glass or two of wine offends me.

  • Neu Mejican||

    So the BAC 0.08 is about one standard deviation below the average BAC of a driver who had been drinking and was involved in a fatal accident. This means that if you set BAC at 0.08 you can expect catch 85% of drivers who have been drinking that will be involved in fatal accidents.

    I find it interesting that Zubon's link indicates that alcohol was involved in 32% of fatalities despite being involved in only 10% of accidents.

  • Neu Mejican||

    So,

    by JsubD's "catch those doing 90% of the mayhem" we should look at that 0.05 BAC...

    but given that most people can't feel the effects of alcohol at that level, I would not support JsubD's stricter standard...

    ;^)

  • Neu Mejican||

    Kinnath,

    Then quote those studies. Leave percentages of accidents with any drive having a measurable BAC out of the discussion.

    Look at my first post....

  • ||

    This means that if you set BAC at 0.08 you can expect catch 85% of drivers who have been drinking that will be involved in fatal accidents.

    There are so many assumptions baked into that assertion it isn't even funny.

    I hope the rest of you are paying attention to Neu Mejican. Not because his numbers or conclusions are necessarily correct, but because this is the preview of how MADD will push for .05 DUI laws next.

    What, you thought they'd stop their prohibitionist jihad at .08?

  • ||

    You know, prohibition hasn't been tried in years! Surely we could get it right this time!

  • Zubon||

    Neu Mejican,

    0.04-0.05 is the point where the effect is noticable. I am not sure if that connects to "significantly likely to cause an accident." The elbow of the curve is going to be in the 0.08-0.10 range. This is working from memory of MADD data. They have good data, mostly from the federal database. You can argue with their interpretation or presentation, and certainly with policy recommendations, but they do not make numbers up.

    Concerning "being involved in only 10% of accidents," alcohol will be vastly under-reported for anything less than serious injuries. If you drive (drunk) into a mailbox or tree and can drive away before the police get there, you probably will. Those crashes may not get reported at all, or they might be hit and runs where the other driver is never caught. The number in all crashes is definitely higher than the 10% known to involve alcohol, but likely lower than the 32% in fatal (we have no way to tell for sure).

    The hit-and-run factor suggests that alcohol might be under-reported even in serious crashes, but you can find federal numbers that estimate BAC from unknowns based on similarities to other crashes. I tend to avoid those, because I would rather work with those where we have known results. At any rate, it will not affect the percentage distributions much or at all if you use the estimated numbers.

  • ||

    "You know, prohibition hasn't been tried in years! Surely we could get it right this time!"

    Prohibition would have worked if it were drafted properly.

  • ||

    Zubon,Using MADD as a reference won't cut it.They've had to revise their figures down several times when questioned.They also tend to treat anyone who has one drink as a threat.Alcohol related is a catch all to muddy the debate.They are trying ,and might succeed in lowering the limit to .05.Their support of road blocks also bother me.

  • ||

    One last point. These crashes we are discussing are not crashes solely caused by alcohol but those where alcohol is a contributing factor. I'll grant that in BACs of .3 it's an overwhelming factor, but contend that at lower levels .05 - .10 it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the relationship between alcohol and other factors that contribute to the accident..

    None of my points should be construed as promoting drinking and driving. As moral folks, we souldn't do it. We should also not drive fatigued, not drive in a hurry, not drive while fondling a pretty girl's leg with your right hand etc. etc. etc.

    We all have done some of these these things. When you change the station on the radio you are putting yourself and others at risk. How much? At what point does it become criminal? Not easy questions, are they. If BAC wasn't easily quantifiable it would be treated like all the other unsafe driving behaviors.

  • ||

    J sub D,When they need to take away 5th and 4th amendment rights to prove their case it shows there is little danger from .05 to .01.The reason for mandatory breath or blood tests is they can not prove their cases without them in low BAC instances.MADD's support for road blocks stem from this.I've read quotes from law enforcement saying most people arrested aren't driving in a dangerous manner.Most make a minor mistake.One D.A. went as far as to say without breath or blood test he could not prove many cases.Think about that.

  • Zubon||

    Michael Pack, it is worse than that, since I am asking you to trust me on what I remember about MADD's publications a few years ago when the .08 laws were passing. [citation needed] indeed! But I pretty much agreed with you: you can always argue the interpretation, presentation, or policy recommendations from data. They must have decent statisticians, though, because the data itself is good, or at least consistent with other sources like NHTSA, IIHS, and AAA. Always double-check what version of "alcohol-involved" you're getting, and don't trust the reporter to rephrase the press release properly, and don't trust the PR staff to rephrase the data properly.

    J sub D, for more quantifiable fun, you can get numbers comparing distractions and alcohol involvement. They are fun to combine and think of the obvious policy recommendations. Talking on a cell phone has an effect like a few drinks. Children are the largest distractions in a car, the younger the child the worse. Talking on a cell phone gives a 20-something driver the reaction time of a 60-something driver. (More [citation needed], though I can find them.) If your state outlaws cell phone use while driving, what other factors should it outlaw?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Zubon,

    0.04-0.05 is the point where the effect is noticable. I am not sure if that connects to "significantly likely to cause an accident."

    Yeah, that was sloppy language... In my defense I will point out that "significantly" -- as in statistical significance -- is very much the same thing as "noticable."

    Most studies do see the increased risk start to rise quickly at around 0.05, but the relative risk at that level is more like 2, rising quickly to 11 or 12 by BAC 0.08

    If double the risk is not "significantly likely" it is certainly "significantly more likely."

    But point taken.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Dr. K. | July 22, 2008, 3:42pm | #
    This means that if you set BAC at 0.08 you can expect catch 85% of drivers who have been drinking that will be involved in fatal accidents.

    There are so many assumptions baked into that assertion it isn't even funny.


    You may be over interpreting my use of the word "catch" here.

    Maybe I should have said "describe" but I am not sure what other assumptions you have a problem with.

  • ||

    Zubon,The main problem I have with low bac laws are the rights taken away to enforce them.As I stated,in many cases they need the test to see if there was a crime.I have no problem with blood or DNA when they know there was a crime,still they need a warrant.In DUI it's the reverse.This is like frisking people on the street for drugs on a 'known drug corner'.Their fighting the drug war no matter the cost to our rights.

  • ||

    if you set BAC at 0.08 you can expect catch 85% of drivers who have been drinking that will be involved in fatal accidents.

    Explain your use of the term "expect to catch" please.
    Are you arguing for checkpoints? Random "suspicionless" pull-overs? Bar sweeps? Universal breathalyzer ignition interlocks? RFID blood analysis chips?

    Psychics? Mediums? Mind-readers?

  • ||

    All's well that ends in a fiery crash, I always say. But seriously, would it have been a public service to spike the column if Weingarten had slept well, eaten a big dinner, and been more or less OK after a few drinks?

    I could be stone cold sober and if i was in a simulator i would still crash.

    Seriously it is a friggin simulator...what would be the fun of being in a simulator and not actively trying to crash?

  • Neu Mejican||

    P Brooks,

    Explain your use of the term "expect to catch" please.

    See my response to Dr. K.

    I mean it in the sense of "If I set a cut off of BAC > 0.08 as a criteria to predict future fatal accidents, among drivers who have had a drink I will correctly predict with a true positive rate of about 85%."

    We don't know the false positive rate.

  • Neu Mejican||

    That was still sloppy.

    Let's make that:

    If I try to predict the BAC of drivers who have had a drink and were involved in a fatal accident, I will be correct about 85% of the time if I predict that it will be 0.08 or above.

  • Neu Mejican||

    P Brooks,

    Are you arguing for checkpoints?
    no
    Random "suspicionless" pull-overs?
    no
    Bar sweeps?
    no
    Universal breathalyzer ignition interlocks?
    no
    RFID blood analysis chips?
    no

    Psychics? Mediums? Mind-readers?

    Only if they are less annoying than Tom Cruise.

  • Minority Report||

    Pre-crime...

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/mediaindex

  • Neu Mejican||

    P Brooks,

    So that means that a DUI would involve, most likely, at least two things.

    1)You were pulled over for some traffic violation.
    2)Your behavior before or during the traffic stop was sufficiently suspicious that the cop thought you might be over the limit and checked.

    It seems to me the reason to set the BAC in DUI is to give the public reasonable guidelines for judging safe BAC levels and significant motivation to pay attention to them.

    They should not be used as some sort of lever to bring about zero-tolerance, nor as a work-around for probable cause.

  • short, fat bastard||

    They should not be used as some sort of lever to bring about zero-tolerance, nor as a work-around for probable cause.

    Too late.

  • Neu Mejican||

    A quick look at MADD's website.

    They don't seem to take a zero-tolerance stance on the issue.

    Virtually everyone is significantly impaired at a .08 BAC, so it is a logic place to draw the line for defining what is drunk driving. At .08, a person is 11 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than someone who has had nothing to drink. (Zador, 2000) (Keall et al, 2004)

  • JB||

    The obvious conclusion is that journalists should not be allowed to drive.

  • Observationalist||

    Weingarten's editor is such a stereotype. He might want to wait until the column actually comes in before deciding whether it's irresponsible or not, for goshsakes.

    Your typical newspaper editor: Weirdly passive-aggressive, afraid of his own shadow, substituting chest-puffery and acceptance of tired conventional wisdom instead of thinking for himself. And of course, striving to never, ever offend anyone. There are some fine exceptions out there, but still ...

  • ||

    25 odd years ago, P.J. O'Rourke wrote an article called "How to drive fast on drugs while getting your wing-wang squeezed and not spill your drink. Probably not as funny as it seemed when i was 17, but i still like the title.

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

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