Morning Links

Monday, November 21st, 2011

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56 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Radley Balko | 

    Radley: On page 9 of the article I cited (, you wrote: “Alcohol-related traffic deaths have dropped
    by 40 percent since 1982″. You cited as a source the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Traffic
    Safety Facts 2000,” DOT HS 809 337. According the the data in table 15 of that document, the combination of tougher laws and change in public perceptions around drunken driving actually saved over six thousand lives in 2000.

    If you read the rest of the paper, I think it’s pretty clear that I don’t credit increasingly strict drunk driving laws for the drop in alcohol-related fatalities. I credit public awareness campaigns and a general shift in public perceptions of drunk driving (credit to MADD where it’s due). But the entire section on DWI is an attempt to debunk the idea that roadblocks, .08, and other laws have had an impact on highway fatalities. You can disagree with that if you like. But it’s flat wrong to write that I credit those laws with saving lives.

  2. #2 |  StrangeOne | 

    Merely possessing a weapon does not work as an analogy for drinking and driving. Drinking and driving actually resembles putting on a blindfold, pointing your gun in a general upward direction, and letting off a burst. It does not resemble having a knife in your pocket, but running through a crowd with the knife out and pointed forward.

    This perfectly illustrates just how irrational your stance on drunk driving is. Firing a gun randomly in the air (which isn’t even that dangerous) is nowhere near the equivilent of driving drunk, as defined by the state. The whole reason for DUI checkpoints is because law enforcement can’t even tell who is driving drunk. The .08 limit is arbitrary, and the harshness of drunk driving laws is even worse when compared to other imparing acts which aren’t policed as heavily or at all, like having more than 2 passengers in the car or sleep deprivation (both of which have been shown to have the same effect as .08 limit for most people).

    Most people can safely drive after two beers, most people can safely drive while listening to loud music, most people can safely drive while talking to a car full of friends, most people can safely drive with their kids yelling in the back seat. For the state to declare one of these groups of people, as what amounts to, attempted murders in the absence of any supporting evidence is unconsicionable.

    that when the state issues licenses with no accountability, they make everyone, even ultimately the license holders themselves, less free

    This is the exact opposite of freedom. If you require state permission to do something your freedom in that regard has been reduced. The fact that you can so fundamentaly misunderstand the concept of freedom sheds a lot of light on where you are coming from. In a free society licensing would be unnecessary becuase the only crime you could commit with a vehicle would involve the destruction of public or private property or harm to an individual with that vehicle. Which, coincidentally, we already have laws against completely independent of the DMV’s good graces in letting us use taxpayer funded roads.

    And why do you assume that everyone is so incompetent that the state must pre-emptively police their behavior? For that matter why do you assume the state can effectively or fairly measure competence? Keep in mind millions upon millions of people drive every day without an accident. They do this seven days a week, all year long. Yet the rate of collisions in comparison to the number of cars on the road is infintesimly small. Given the fact that collisions and accidents are so infrequent, shouldn’t it be safe to assume that the vast majority of drivers are competent? Why revel in this delusional myth that everyone else is dangerous and the only thing that makes them, and by extension yourself, safe is some permission slip from government bureaucrats?

  3. #3 |  John Spragge | 

    Radley: I never said you agreed with .08 laws or DUI checkpoints. I said your own research indicates that restrictions on impaired driving saved more lives each year than the total number of lives lost to all (non-driving) criminal activity. Whether you see the effective restrictions on drinking and driving as external or internal, or whether you see the most effective forms of external sanction as legal penalty or social ostracism, alcohol-impaired driving kills a great many people. We have considerable evidence that it killed a great many more people before the change in both laws (US state legislatures passed 729 laws on drinking and driving between 1980 and 1986) and social attitudes.

  4. #4 |  John Spragge | 

    StrangeOne: I’ll leave out your staggering callousness for now. Just this month my city lost a vibrant young mother, crushed under the wheels of a truck. The outpouring of grief paralyzed a good chunk of the city for a morning, the devastated family, the sadness the rage, the child who will grow up without a mother; I will remember these things for some time. And yet you consider that happening thirty three thousand times in 2010 alone “inifitesimal”. Over thirty thousand people, the population of a large town or small city, every year. Over one hundred thirty five times the 9/11 death toll in the years from 2001 to the present. More Americans have died in car crashes than the entire Islamist movement has killed. And the communist party (all communist parties). And the national socialist German workers party, And the government of Hideki Tojo. Car crashes have killed more Americans than these institutions, combined.

    But let’s instead look at on your apparent belief that you can define reality, regardless of what doctors have to say about the effects of alcohol on the human brain. You can tell us that most people can drive safely after drinking. You can shout it, type it in all caps, even have Rush set it to a guitar anthem. Doctors, who actually understand how alcohol interacts with the brain, tell us that alcohol impairs judgment, the activity most critical for safety around moving machinery, long before it produces visible motor control effects.

    Your argument puts me in mind of a science fiction story, in which a man, his license suspended permanently for irresponsible driving on Earth, takes off for a remote planet where they have no traffic police or traffic courts. He discovers to his discomfort that indeed they have no traffic police or courts. They fight duels. The moral? An infantile and unworthy corruption of the libertarian impulse dreams of a society where the individual can define reality as he (she) chooses, and force others to clean up the mess, fold their hands, bury the dead, when the clash between fantasy and reality produces its inevitable result. That will never happen. We will protect ourselves; if not with licensing laws and RIDE checkpoints, then in other, more severe, ways.

  5. #5 |  StrangeOne | 

    John are you really that obtuse? You can’t stop or prevent every traffic death, thats not callousness, thats called living in the real world. As tragic as a persons death maybe it is utter foolishness to establish national policy based on that incident alone. I also note that you failed to mention if the truck driver was drunk, so aside from being annectdotal evidence, your anecdote has no relevance to the discussion at hand.

    33,000 traffic deaths in a year? Thats about a hundred a day, in a nation with 250 million vehicles. If even half of those vehicles are on the road on an average day, that means you have a less than a one in a million chance at a fatal traffic accident. Not to mention a great many of those traffic fatalities have nothing to do with alcohol. You’ve embraced draconian policies to curb a portion of accidents, with a tiny rate of occurance in the first place.

    I’m not saying alcohol has no effect, I’m saying that the same amount of alcohol has different effects on different people, something the law totally ignores. Again, if being a drunk driver was so obvious, why have DUI checkpoints and sobriety tests? If you can’t tell if someone is dangerous by watching them drive, doesn’t that call into question whether or not they are dangerous at all? This is about the state taking what *some doctors* say about blood/alcohol limits as a broad pretense to arrest, imprision, and villify a not insignifigant portion of the population. You don’t seem to get that alcohol isn’t the only thing that kills motorists, but the state doesn’t prosecute other dangerous behaviors nearly as ferociously as DUI.

    And then you descend into this fantasy about this huge portion of the population that would become destruction derby drivers without traffic cops. Really, your opinion of other people is that low? In the absence of traffic laws would you engage in behavior that signifigantly endagers your life and others? No, then why do you assume everyone else would become road warriors? You honestly think you have to “protect yourself” from these other people. They’re not just drivers and passengers trying to get where they are going, to you every other person is a potential kill crazy duelists directly threatening your life. If you think thats the “inevetible result” of slightly looser traffic laws, then you’re the one living in the fantasy world.

  6. #6 |  John Spragge | 

    Let’s get back to basic libertarian principles. A free society requires that everyone have the ability to exercise their rights. Check. Our rights include the right to use public space to move about (this one goes back to Magna Carta, and numbers among three explicitly protected in the body of the US constitution). In a libertarian society, crimes only consist of unnecessarily endangering, threatening, or harming others in the exercise of their rights. Impaired driving (driving impaired by all factors) kills and injures people innocently exercising their rights. Check, Therefore, according to libertarian principles, impaired operation of a motor vehicle constitutes a crime.

    Motor vehicle accidents rank as the leading cause of death among American teenagers. That means an enormous loss of human potential, not to mention an enormous burden of grief and suffering. Some of that we can reduce with much more effective, much more rigorous driver education and training. Things we can’t train drivers to cope with, such as drug and alcohol impairment and sleep deprivation, we can reduce with effective, no-nonsense enforcement. Sanctions against impaired driving already save ten thousand lives every year. More effective sanctions and better training can almost certainly save another ten thousand lives.

    And please stop whining that drivers are really nice people, not out to kill each other or pedestrians. Driving means operating a large, heavy piece of machinery, powered by and loaded with loaded with one of the touchiest high explosives going. Our present motor vehicle technology taxes the human mind and body very close to the limit. It doesn’t take a homicidal maniac to kill with a car: one bad judgment will do it. When we don’t demand of ourselves what the technology demands of us, we can either not use the technology (a good thing), or we can kill ourselves and other people (a very bad thing). I regret it if the reality doesn’t please you, but over thirty thousand dead Americans every year doesn’t please me.