Rumors of DUI Deaths Have Been Greatly Exaggerated


Drunken driving is a dangerous activity; there is no dispute about that fact. DUI can be deadly and that fact is drilled into our brains continuously by billboard advertisements, commercials and published statistics.

But wait - what about those statistics?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that nearly 18,000 highway deaths were classified in 2007 by federal statisticians as "alcohol-related." This could be misleading because not every traffic fatality that is alcohol-related was caused by alcohol. An accident is classified as alcohol-related when any one person, including passengers, pedestrians or cyclists, was thought - not necessarily proven - to have any amount of alcohol in their system at the time of the fatal accident. This method of classification can greatly skew statistics and cause them to be exaggerated and misleading.

In fact, if all of the alcohol-related accidents involving people who were driving under the blood alcohol content legal limit, drunken pedestrians, impaired cyclists and other people who had actually not been drinking at all were subtracted from the number of alcohol-related fatalities that are reported, only about 12 percent of innocent victims remain. This means that out of the 18,000 alcohol-related highway deaths, 2,160 were actually victims of DUI drivers. While that is still 2,160 too many, it is a fraction of the number of people that Americans are led to believe have been killed by drunken drivers.

Although DUI deaths are a serious problem, when anti-alcohol lobbyists and MADD become fanatical and begin seemingly pulling statistics out of thin air, they lose credibility. For instance, a widely used "statistic" is that people who are arrested for first DUI offense have driven drunk an average of 87 times before being arrested. This rough figure came from self-reported data collected from a small sample of people arrested for DUI over 13 years ago.

Currently in every state, the legal limit for drunk driving for adults is .08 percent blood alcohol content. MADD and other anti-alcohol lobbyists pushed for the lowered legal limit by claiming that it would save 600-800 lives per year. However, the lowered legal limits have had no measurable effect on alcohol-related fatalities. In fact, one study in Contemporary Economic Policy found that the efforts spent on pushing for the lowered blood alcohol content DUI laws would have been more effective if they have been spent encouraging measures against repeat DUI offenders.

Despite the evidence that the lowered blood alcohol content limits were not effective and that chronic drunken drivers at more than twice the .08 percent limit cause the majority of the problems out on the roads, anti-alcohol fanatics continue to demand more funding and manpower and continue to push for legislation for largely ineffective measures such as DUI checkpoints, which are a huge use of police resources that catch few drunken drivers.

The fact is, the legal blood alcohol content level is not 0.0 percent, nor is it illegal under most circumstances to drive after having consumed a beer. Driving while impaired is always illegal. However, by using inflated and false statistics and exaggerating and distorting facts, anti-alcohol crusaders continue on their mission to blur the line between what is perfectly acceptable and legal, and drunken driving.

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