Blue Sky Minding

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One of the last quirky examples of aberrant, outrageous-sounding in-state freedom—Montana's permissiveness of cracking open a frosty behind the wheel—is going by the wayside, after lawmakers caved to the federal guvmint's threat to withhold $5 million in highway funding. The new restrictions should go into effect Oct. 1. Now only Mississippi lacks a state open container law.

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  1. Stevo — I suppose, though that shouldn’t be confused with not despising them.

  2. Meh heh…who’s going to shave me?

  3. Matt — Love the music, hate the message.

  4. I didn’t even make it to the like-the-music stage.

  5. They should go the route of Louisiana. They have drive through daquiri huts and they “close” the container with a piece of tape!

  6. I used to love Midnight Oil when I was in HS. But back then I would’ve considered myself a Democrat. I haven’t listened to them in years, so I don’t know if I’d still like the music. There are a few bands that I used to like that I don’t care for now, at all. Maybe they’d be another?

  7. With a lot of friends in MT, it’s always been a family tradition to crack a brew once we drive over the state line. Don’t they have any respect for our customs and culture?

  8. Laugh if you want, but Hitler started with banning open containers, too. Later Martin Niemoller lamented “First they went after the guys drinking beer behind the wheel. I didn’t mind…”

  9. Don’t they have any respect for our customs and culture?

    See, trainwreck, you should stand up for your traditions. Just pop open a beer anyway and sing:

    We carry in our hearts the true country
    And that cannot be stolen
    We follow in the steps of our ancestry
    And that cannot be broken

    We don’t serve your country
    Don’t serve your king
    Don’t know your customs
    Don’t speak your tongue
    Police man came took every Bud…

    See, I deal with lefty songs by recasting them in my head, with a very small number of wording changes, to be about anti-PC topics. For example, to me, Midnight Oil’s “The Dead Heart” is usually about the Union’s occupation of the South. And NIN’s “Head Like a Hole” is about Democratic politicians and their fat-cat contributors like George Soros. Etc.

    Disclaimer: Just kidding about the beer; not responsible if you get pulled over.

  10. My friend in Austin is convinced that it’s legal in Texas as well. Or maybe he just wanted to drink a beer so he told me it was legal. Not that I would have cared all that much….

  11. Montana has the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    “This is one of those laws that will start the cultural change that we need on the highways of Montana. We hope that just the existence of the law will make a difference,” said Lt. Col. Mike Tooley, deputy chief of the Montana Highway Patrol.

    Maybe it will help, just like sobriety checkpoints have been “helping” [IOW, causing alcohol-related accident rates and deaths to rise because cops are too busy checkpointing every single sober driver that they don’t have as much time to be out on the road looking for the .15+ crowd.]

  12. Evan,

    Not to defend the lawmakers, but banning drinking while driving probably will help a bit. I mean, there exist law-abiding citizens who will no longer drink while driving, much as there are drunk drivers (myself included)who drive drunk less frequently for fear of being pulled over and punished for it. It’s a fear tactic, but it works.

    With a lot of friends in MT, it’s always been a family tradition to crack a brew once we drive over the state line. Don’t they have any respect for our customs and culture?

    I knew someone who I went to highschool with that died in a Montana car accident…I wonder if it was alcohol-related now….I didn’t even know that you could drink and drive in Montana until I saw this post earlier today….

    My friend in Austin is convinced that it’s legal in Texas as well. Or maybe he just wanted to drink a beer so he told me it was legal. Not that I would have cared all that much….

    You must be talking about my ex-boyfriend. No really, you must.

  13. The law gives you a $100 fine and it doesn’t go on your record. It’s a phony law that won’t be enforced. Just like speeding in Montana – the maximum fine for speeding is $5, and there are so few cops per mile of freeway that you can feel free to drive as fast as you damn well please.

  14. Smacky:

    Not to defend the lawmakers, but banning drinking while driving probably will help a bit. I mean, there exist law-abiding citizens who will no longer drink while driving, much as there are drunk drivers (myself included)who drive drunk less frequently for fear of being pulled over and punished for it. It’s a fear tactic, but it works.

    Well, whether it “works” or not depends on what your goal is. If your goal is to cut down on the isolated act of citizens in Montana ingesting alcohol while operating a motor vehicle, then, perhaps it might (except that the punishment is so weak, I doubt it). However, if your goal is instead to cut down on the number of alcohol-related automobile injuries & deaths, then it’s doubtful it will have much of an effect.

    Think about it: if you’re reckless enough to get trashed while you’re driving, to the point where you’re going to cause an accident, is the spectre of a $100 fine and no points on your record really going to make you button up and fly right? And even if the fine was, say, $2000, then it wouldn’t really stop people from drinking and driving, just drinking while driving—which can be done in a perfectly safe manner.

  15. They should go the route of Louisiana. They have drive through daquiri huts and they “close” the container with a piece of tape!

    They still allow this? Having graduated and left in 1993, I figured this had to have changed since then, just as the drinking age has.

  16. J,
    It used to be legal in Texas, but is no longer. My buddy’s dad was livid when they changed the law. I would love to crack open a brew while sitting in bumper to bumper. I don’t see the problem as long as I stay legally sober.

  17. while sitting in bumper to bumper.

    And how! I hear the traffic in Austin is awful.

  18. While the $5 speeding ticket in MT is true, the fine for going over 80 at night is much higher.
    I know from first-hand experience.

  19. Isn’t Pete Garrett (that was MO’s lead singer) an Australian Lefty (read Moonbat) MP now?

    Anyway, reasonable drunk driving legislation gave way to puritanical hysteria a long time ago. People who have a glass of wine with dinner (enough to crest the current 0.08 intoxication line) are not the problem. Chronic problem drinkers who lose their licenses and keep driving anyway are the problem. But, as always, it’s easier to crack down on people who obey the law than people who don’t.

  20. This is one of the issues where I part company with my more radical LP friends, as do many other libertarians, big ‘L’ and small ‘l’.

    I have seen the science on how alcohol can affect judgement and reaction time. Not to mention done a few of my own, ah, ‘experiments’. ahem.

    While I do not support the random checkpoints that are used to fish for drinking drivers, I do support laws that punish those found driving while intoxicated. This includes having open containers of alcoholic beverages, or lit joints, etc. in the car at the time, while using public roads.

    If you have had so much to drink that it noticeably affects your ability to drive a vehicle, then as far as I am concerned you have threatened the life of every other road user on the roads you travelled.

    No less so than if you drink while target shooting and decide to walk down the street shooting at ‘safe’ targets. Even if your bullets do not come near me, your actions are a threat to my life and safety.

    If you want to drink and then engage in potentially dangerous activity, driving, shooting, playing with 5 gallon buckets full of water, whatever, go ahead, it is your life. Just do it on private property with the owners permission.

    But when you venture out in public, on roads I use, and others use, you have included me and others in your activities, and we then have the right to stop you in our own defense.

    I choose to delegate that right to the police, who can take care of this in an orderly and fairly peaceful way, rather than to use my Benelli directly, but as far as I am concerned, the use of the Benelli is equally justified, and the right to do so, I retain.

    Tom

  21. Evan, do you believe changes in the law had anything to do with the dramatic decrease in drunk driving fatalities from 1980 to the present?

  22. They should go the route of Louisiana. They have drive through daquiri huts and they “close” the container with a piece of tape!

    They have this same setup in parts of TX, except they usually place the containers in sealed plastic bags.

  23. I believe Louisiana got its first open-container law last year–either that, or its first one with teeth. We passed it to try to get federal highway funding; one of the many reasons our roads are so poorly maintained is that we lose tons of funding because we do have drive-through daquiri stands and not open-container laws.

    Unfortunately, we still don’t get highway funding, because the law allows open containers 1)in a parked car, and 2) on a Mardi Gras float (the people riding on the float, even though they’re completely separated from the driver, are technically passengers in a motorized vehicle).

  24. The drunk driving fatality decrease was probably due to better public education about the hazards of drinking and driving and the fact that cars today are safer than what they ever were before (if you buy a larger car of course).

  25. “The drunk driving fatality decrease was probably due to better public education about the hazards of drinking and driving and the fact that cars today are safer than what they ever were before (if you buy a larger car of course).”

    Public education, maybe. But as for safer cars, the rate of alcohol-related deaths fell much faster than overall deaths. Unless you assume that drunk drivers did a better job getting safe cars than the population at large, this doesn’t fly.

  26. Unfortunately, we still don’t get highway funding,

    Why is that unfortunate?

  27. Evan, do you believe changes in the law had anything to do with the dramatic decrease in drunk driving fatalities from 1980 to the present?

    I agree with Mike that much of it probably has to do with the education, and the attached stigma (like with cig smoking) that has pervaded society.

    Surely, our unjust laws which unfairly punish those who drive drunk relative to other violations, and which strip the accused of their civil rights, have had an effect—but, I ask you, the do you measure the success of tyrannical laws on their statistical effect on the offense being targeted alone? Of course not, and the unjustness of these laws must also be taken into account. Surely, unjust laws can be an effective deterrent, but this is no justification for their implementation. I’m sure that we could pretty much stop petty theft if we made the mandatory minimum penalty life in prison without a jury trial, but what does that really say?

    My remark was directed more at sobriety checkpoints—and the data does indeed show that since their widespread implementation, the numbers are beginning to rise again.

  28. Tom sayeth, “I do support laws that punish those found driving while intoxicated. This includes having open containers of alcoholic beverages, or lit joints, etc. in the car at the time, while using public roads.”

    So, let’s say that I am a 195-lb male, and I have a single open beer bottle in the car with me. Please tell me, why should I be punished? I am no more a danger to you than someone who looks away from the road for a second to change the radio. Open container laws are absurd, and have nothing to do with the actual impairment of the driver at the time of apprehension. Inversely, what if I get plastered, then throw the bottles out the window? The number of open containers has no real bearing on my level of intoxication.

    “If you have had so much to drink that it noticeably affects your ability to drive a vehicle, then as far as I am concerned you have threatened the life of every other road user on the roads you travelled.”

    Yes, but where this country sets that level of “noticeably affects” is the problem. As we have it right now, talking on a cell phone is more dangerous (many studies have proven this!) than driving with a .08 BAC. And I would venture to say that most DUI arrests arise from mundane traffic stops, speeding violations, checkpoints, etc., where the driver has exhibited no observable signs of, as you say, threatening the life of every other road user on the roads you travelled, at least as far as alcohol intoxication goes. Yet, it results in a mandatory jail sentence in most states, along with thousands in fees and fines.

    But when you venture out in public, on roads I use, and others use, you have included me and others in your activities, and we then have the right to stop you in our own defense.

    The point is not that drunk driving is not dangerous to other drivers—-the point, instead, is that this activity is singled out, and violators are unfairly punished and have their rights stripped away. I would venture that a main reason behind this is simply that, because of breathalyzers, this is rather easy to test for. Surely, driving while chatting on your cellphone is more dangerous than driving with a .08 BAC…yet, if you get stopped at a checkpoint or pulled over for having a taillight out, then, well, it’s easier to test your BAC than to test if you’ve been using your cellphone, right? But is this any reason for tyrannical laws? Of course not.

    I too part with the Big-L libertarian view that all drunk driving laws should be scrapped. But I’m not sure anyone here is advocating such a thing.

  29. I dunno joe. There are a lot less smokers nowadays, who made it illegal? Oh and the rate fell before there were laws against drinking in bars.

  30. I’m sure that we could pretty much stop petty theft if we made the mandatory minimum penalty life in prison without a jury trial, but what does that really say?

    A government could stop petty theft by passing a law that says the offender is to have their right hand removed at the wrist for the first offence. The problem is that maybe you take your son to the store. He is a year and a half and riding in a stroller. You are shopping at a store, and while you are shopping, your son grabs a can of tuna. He is not really all that interested in canned food, so he drops it in the stroller. As you leave the store, your son is nabbed. Being that the state has adopted a zero tolerance law towards petty theft, your son has to get his right hand chopped off.

  31. Mo,

    Laws against drinking in bars? What have we come to?! 😉

  32. Personally, I don’t think there s/b drunk-driving laws. If someone kills me with their car, I don’t really care why–I’m still dead regardless. I would like to see the abolition of the term “auto-accident”. There are no auto accidents, only negligence. All deaths caused by drivers s/b prosecuted as negligent homicide at the minimum. If they were drinking or not, they s/b held responsible for the death they caused.

  33. If you are drunk in a car (.08) stopped at a light and a sober driver plows into you, THAT is an alcohol related accident.

  34. While I don’t think the feds should blackmail Montana into changing its laws, and I certainly think that many drunk driving laws have gone far beyond reason. I do question the intelligence (and sanity) of anyone who thinks drinking alcohol while driving is a good idea.

  35. There are no auto accidents, only negligence.

    So if you unknowingly run over a machine screw and it causes a tire to disintegrate, you were not really in an accident?

  36. Twba,

    You make a fine point, but what you mention is (relatively) rarely a cause of accidents. Certainly, there would be exceptions, but generally, most accidents are caused by negligence. Try being a pedestrian for awhile and you’ll notice how poorly many people drive; how often they pay little attention to their driving. Negligent homicide is negligent homicide.

  37. db: Mike2039 had it about right. It’s not necessarily unfortunate for y’all that Louisiana doesn’t get highway funding, but it’s sure unfortunate for people who live in LA.

    On the other hand, I’m away at college now, in the other LA, and I hate driving anyway. Screw ’em.

  38. I’d be very surprised if a large component of the decline in annual “drunk driving” deaths since 1980 wasn’t at least partly an artifact of the baby-boom “mouse” moving through the demographic “snake” into their actual adult years. There were fewer 16-30 year-olds as a perentage of the total population in the `80s and `90s than there were in the `60s and `70s, which also mostly explains the recent decline in crime.

    Some anti-drinking changes, such as raising the drinking age to 21, have probably had an adverse effect on drinking and driving. A group of college freshman walking to the bar district near campus are less of a threat than 16-20 year-olds driving all over hell to some secret kegger in the woods, where they drink as much as they can for five bucks, then let their “least drunk” buddy drive home.

    Kevin

  39. kevrob,

    Using rational statistical analysis is unfair! How can people have a debate if the truth is put right there in front of their eyes?

  40. MJ says, “I do question the intelligence (and sanity) of anyone who thinks drinking alcohol while driving is a good idea.”

    This is an absurd statement. Do you also question the intelligence and sanity of anyone who, for instance, talks on their cellphone while driving (with or without hands-free, it makes no difference)? Have you ever done that? Well, I’ve got news for you: numerous studies have proven that it is more dangerous than driving with a .08 BAC. Uh-oh, looks like there are a whole buncha insane fuckers out there! How about, say, changing the radio? Yelling at your kids? Looking for a CD? Eating? Reading a map or directions? INSANE! All more dangerous than, for example, consuming a single beer while driving.

    What I’m getting at (if you haven’t figure it out already) is that it is disingenuous for people to make these blanket statements about “drinking and driving”, as if there are only 2 states of intoxication: drunk, or non-drunk. It varies widely from person to person, and it is gradated. You said that you would question the sanity of someone who thinks “drinking while driving” is a “good idea”. Why? A 185-lb male having a single beer over the course of, let’s say, 30 minutes, is likely to have little to no effect on the statistical probability of having an accident—yet, I don’t guess you would question the sanity of every person who looks away from the road to change the radio station.

    It is the refusal to recognize that this is not a black and white issue, that there are gradations involved, that is the main problem. Your statement, however, allows for no distinction between someone consuming a single beer over 30 minutes, and someone pounding 5 shots of moonshine over 10 minutes. It is this very same blindness to the idea of gradation that results in imbecile open container laws—laws against something that has no direct connection to the intoxication level of the driver.

  41. Evan,

    MJ probably meant driving drunk, not drinking while driving.

  42. Evan,

    Can you please explain to me what the purpose of drinking adult beverages, while in the act of driving a car, exactly is? Personally, I do not see much reason except to get at least a buzz and hence some level of impairment. An open container may not indicate the level of impairment of the driver, it certainly indicates the intent of the driver to become impaired at some level.

    Those other activities you mention may or may not cause greater levels of distraction to a driver, they can be quickly “shut-off”. Not so with alcohol impairment, with which your ability to recover is at the mercy of the effectiveness of your abused liver. Why do such a thing? Why be so reckless and heedless of the safety of the people you are sharing the road with?

    Please keep in mind, I am not arguing for Montana’s law to be changed. I am questioning the wisdom of the people who would engage in drinking while driving.

    This leads me to one of my general gripes with some libertarians. It does not seem to be enough to argue that certain questionable activities not be illegal, but must go on to argue that those activities are not questionable and even desirable. Which I think is amusing, since trying argue these activities into respectability implicitly accepts the idea that all questionable activities should be illegal.

  43. MJ,

    Any decent-sized male or female can drink one 12-ounce beer without becoming impaired. That’s what the liver is for, it metabolizes things like alcohol. Have you ever taken cold medicine and driven a car? Quite often a person is more impaired on OTC meds than from one or two drinks.

  44. MJ:

    To many of us, beer tastes good! We’d rather quench our thirst with a (1) beer than a Coca-Cola, or lemonade, or even a bottle of that prissy brand-name water stuff. Near-beer doesn’t cut it. Not only are most of the recipes a bad imitation of Amercan pilsner-style lager, aka “lawnmower beer”, but the absence of alcohol actually affects the taste profile of the brew.

    I’ve never lived anywhere when the law allowed even a passenger to possess an open beer or a cocktail, so I have never developed a penchant for imbibing while driving, but this is none of the Feds’ damned business. Let each state decide this, and the speed limit, and the BAC limit, for itself, without bribes or blackmail from the central government. I would have added the drinking age, but that ought to be 18 everywhere, on equal protection grounds.

    Nobody old enough to vote should be forbidden from getting good and drunk afterwards. 🙂

    Kevin

  45. DEY TOOK YUR JAWB!

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