Herman Cain's Opposition to Overly Strict Drunk Driving Laws


At TPM, Benjy Sarlin reports that when Herman Cain was heading up the National Restaurant Association (a different NRA) in the late 1990s, he argued against overly strict drunk driving laws:

When Cain took over as CEO of the NRA in 1996, anti-drunk driving groups were leading a campaign to lower the blood alcohol limit for a DUI to .08 across the country: the equivalent for a 170 pound-man of about five beers in two hours. The majority of states used a .10 limit as their standard, which advocates argued was an insufficiently tough deterrent and left plenty of still-dangerous drivers on the road.

Enter the restaurant industry, whose members with liquor licenses faced diminished business as a result of the changes. Led by Cain, they lobbied hard against .08 changes at the state and federal level, claiming that research showed little improvement in states that had made the switch already….

"The problem is not the responsible drinker," Cain wrote in one letter to the editor [in the Omaha-World Herald]. "It is the alcohol-abuser who gets behind the wheel of a car. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, two-thirds of all alcohol-related fatalities are caused by drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or higher."

As is to be expected, Cain took some heat from anti-drunk driving groups. But Cain may have been on to something. As Sarlin also points out:

The NRA claimed vindication the next year when a report by the nonpartisan General Accounting Office determined that several studies cited to demonstrate the effectiveness of .08 laws relied on flawed methodology.

Congress still passed the more stringent national limit in 2000, however, and, as Reason has repeatedly reported, the absurdities of drunk driving policy have only increased since then.

Check out even more of Reason's alcohol coverage here. Read Reason's Herman Cain profile right here.