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May 18, 2013

Lots of thoughts on how to save more innocent lives on highways

The Room for Debate on-line section of the New York Times has this new set of pieces discussing drunk driving and the law's responses thereto.  Here is the section's set up:

This week the National Transportation Safety Board recommended lowering the blood alcohol limit from 0.08 percent — the measurement now for 13 years — to 0.05 percent.

Is decreasing this number the best way to minimize traffic fatalities?

Here are the contribututions, with links via the commentary titles:

May 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM | Permalink


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It is significant that MADD is opposed to this approach. As I said in my prior comment on this topic, just make it 0.0. I agree that at some point in time continuing to lower the BAC simply becomes a publicity stunt. I can just see ten years from now, "Hey everybody, we are lowering it from .001 to .0001% just to save ONE MORE LIFE."

Posted by: Daniel | May 18, 2013 2:50:54 PM

I would agree with Daniel. Though I would decriminalize drunk driving and relegate it to the administrative courts similar to the way traffic tickets are handled. A large fine and a six month suspension for the first offense, a larger fine and a year for the second offense, a larger fine and a two year suspension for the third offense. You could back up the license suspension with civil forfeiture of any auto an unlicensed driver is handling. If any drunk driver causes actual bodily injury then tort law can handle that.

Posted by: Jardinero1 | May 18, 2013 3:34:25 PM

In my prior comment I meant "the way parking tickets are handled in some cities"

Posted by: Jardinero1 | May 18, 2013 3:36:35 PM

I don't know what the level should be, but few articles accurately describe the significance of the .08 or .05 level. Those are just the figures that get you an automatic ("per se") conviction based on what the breathalizer says.

You are not safe from drunk driving charges if you are below the stated limit. If you have a .05 level today, you can still be convicted of either impaired or drunk driving. The prosecutor need only prove that you really are impaired. Few articles also mention that the breathalyzer manufacturers guard their source code with their lives, and many judges rule that you cannot question the machine's accuracy.

Posted by: Stephen Hardwick | May 18, 2013 8:05:46 PM

The sole source of greater safety is technology. By this late date, cars should be driving themselves at 200 mph 2 feet apart, with zero crashes a year.

The only reason they are not? Thank the fear of litigation. The lawyer profession must be crushed because they are the cause of all our problems. They run the three branches of government solely for their benefit, and to the detriment of the entire population. Arrest their hierarchy, try them, and execute this vermin in the court basement upon reading of the sentence.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 18, 2013 10:21:13 PM

I see Prof. Berman comment on this topic a lot. The one thing I never see is him supporting the one item that would save the most lives on the road, the elimination of CAFE standards.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | May 19, 2013 6:15:40 PM

Because they force the production of lighter cars?

All regulation may be dangerous. A German village removed its traffic lights and dropped its crash rates.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 21, 2013 12:12:23 AM

@ SC-

"The new regulations did accomplish one thing -- they killed drivers and passengers in large numbers. By lightening cars and removing material, auto companies were inadvertently discarding the armor that protected motorists in the event of a crash. Similarly, the compressed new models lacked space for impact forces to attenuate before causing damage and injury. Drivers in lightweight cars were as much as twelve times more likely to die in a crash. It was once said about American autos that they were "built like tanks." Many of the new models from the late '70s onward more closely resembled go-carts -- and proved to be about as sturdy.

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the fatal results of mileage regulations, starting in 1989 with the Brookings Institution (in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health), followed by USA Today in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences in 2001, and at last the federal government's own National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration in 2003. This formidable lineup of organizations all came to the same conclusion: Fuel standards kill.

According to the Brookings Institution, a 500-lb weight reduction of the average car increased annual highway fatalities by 2,200-3,900 and serious injuries by 11,000 and 19,500 per year. USA Today found that 7,700 deaths occurred for every mile per gallon gained in fuel economy standards. Smaller cars accounted for up to 12,144 deaths in 1997, 37% of all vehicle fatalities for that year. The National Academy of Sciences found that smaller, lighter vehicles "probably resulted in an additional 1,300 to 2,600 traffic fatalities in 1993." The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration study demonstrated that reducing a vehicle's weight by only one hundred pounds increased the fatality rate by as much as 5.63% for light cars, 4.70% for heavier cars, and 3.06% for light trucks. These rates translated into additional traffic fatalities of 13,608 for light cars, 10,884 for heavier cars, and 14,705 for light trucks between 1996 and 1999.

How many deaths have resulted? Depending on which study you choose, the total ranges from 41,600 to 124,800. To that figure we can add between 352,000 and 624,000 people suffering serious injuries, including being crippled for life. In the past thirty years, fuel standards have become one of the major causes of death and misery in the United States -- and one almost completely attributable to human stupidity and shortsightedness."


Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | May 21, 2013 9:48:37 AM

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