Drunk driving laws are a subject that gets many people worked up, and appropriately so, much of the time. No one is in favor of drunk driving. But under the guise of public safely, our constitutional and legal writes have been eroding at a rapid pace.
Breathalyzer machines have been elevated to judge and jury status, and are legally infallibly and unchallengeable in many states. Driver’s licenses are suspended based on the accusation of a drunk driving charge, without ever having to prove anything in court.
Other than the estimable Lawrence Taylor and some other prominent defense lawyers, there are few who dare to challenge the massive campaign by MADD and other organizations to ban any consumption of alcohol.
She Writes Letters
One person who is trying to stem the tide is Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute. A quick news search on her name will show her as one of the few dissenting voices in the DUI laws war. She is interviewed, and writes follow up letters like this one in the Orlando Sentinel and press releases pointing out the extreme nature of many of these efforts.
Yet, for proposing reasonable, objective analysis, she is clearly in the minority of public opinion. But what drives that public opinion? Interest groups, sensationalized news stories, and statistics.
Fighting the DUI Stats Machine
Frequently sited drunk driving statistics are chock full of bad reporting and misleading statements. The headline reads that “Nearly 30 percent of all fatal auto accidents are blamed on alcohol. The text of the article reads, somewhat more vaguely “30 percent of all fatal accidents involve alcohol”.
This is a phrase that MADD uses often, and it is extremely suspicious by it’s vagueness. Does it mean that 30% of all fatal car accidents are caused by alcohol impair drivers? If they meant that, I’m sure they would actually say it like that.
“Alcohol involved” in an accident could mean many, many things.
- Did the driver have some alcohol in his system, but was not legally impaired?
- Did one of the passengers have alcohol in his system?
- Did the victim have alcohol in his system?
- Did someone have alcohol in their car at the time?
These are questions without good answers.
The bottom line is that we need more opposing voices in this debate before the very notion of “innocent until proven guilty” is complete eroded from our laws.