Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
John asks: I have heard the statement, “almost half of traffic deaths involve alcohol.” A state AGW once told me that the term “involves alcohol” means that if anyone in either “involved vehicle” is carrying a load, that “involves alcohol.” The word “almost” means less than half, doesn’t it? Sure says a lot about sobriety, doesn’t it.
My reply: It’s even moe dishonest than that. The statement that “almost half” of all traffic deaths “involve alcohol” includes such things pedestrians wandering into the path of moving cars driven by people with zero alcohol in their system.
Worse, though, is the statement’s premise that alcohol present in any amount was the cause of the traffic death.
Thus, a person who had a beer with dinner who was driving home and got rear-ended at a red light by a semi and was killed constitutes an “alcohol related” fatality.
The inflation of “alcohol related” deaths is done to gin up a sense of crisis – in order to justify extreme measures, such as East German Stasi-style “checkpoints” and (soon) mandatory in-car Breathalyzer technology.
But the actual number of traffic deaths that can be laid at the feet of drivers significantly impaired by alcohol is without doubt much lower than “almost half.” And I am certain it is not even the alcohol, per se, that is the cause of fatalities but rather the driver’s impairment.
Rather, the driver’s already poor judgment and low skill. Many drivers are impaired without having had anything to drink – but no one wants to discuss this brutal (because non-egalitarian) fact.
I’ve had the opportunity to ride with some very skilled drivers who drank, in some cases a lot. I am speaking of professional race car drivers, one of whom is very well-known and so I will not use his name here. But I assure you, this guy is more in control of his car with three or four drinks in him than my ex mother-in-law is without having had anything alcoholic to drink. My ex mother-in-law is a very nice woman but a very poor driver.
This is why I dislike the mindless focus on booze. Impairment – whether by incompetence, distraction or booze – ought to be the thing and the evidence for impairment ought to be something that suggests the person isn’t in control of their vehicle, such as wandering onto the shoulder or across the double yellow, into the opposing lane of traffic, or driving significantly below the speed limit without yielding to other traffic and so on.
It’s outrageous to characterize people as “drunk” (and implicitly, not in control of their vehicle) merely because some trace amount of alcohol is detected (supposedly) by a roadside breath test.
Absent something to indicate their actual driving is a problem, drivers should be left in peace.
. . .
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