Reader Question: “Alcohol-Related”?

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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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6 COMMENTS

  1. You can also count on getting it good and hard via the “latest” law to be passed. I know a guy who was stopped right after open container became law in Texas. He had a bunch of crap he’d cleaned up in the bed of his pickup. There were some beer cans so old you barely read the brand names but he drove away with an “open container” ticket.

  2. When MADD was getting cranked up back in the late 70’s (?) I believe it was Allstate that had a print ad in a magazine that said, “Nearly 40% of Highway Fatalities Involve Alcohol”.

    Let’s break this down.

    “Nearly” in this case means, Less Than. Had it been 40.1% they would have said “OVER” 40%. So, let’s say it’s 39%.

    “Involve” means any person that has greater that 0.0bac it goes into the stats. For legality sake we’ll say that half of those were at the “legal limit” for being drunk. Now we’re down to 19.5% involving someone who is legally “drunk”.

    Of that 19.5% how many of those accidents were CAUSED by the person who was drunk? Shall we guesstimate 2/3? Now we’re down to around 12%.

    If you factor in 2% of fatalities caused by mechanical failure (I’ve heard this stat, not sure of its validity, but, hey, this is an exercise in lying with statistics…) We have 10% of all fatalities being caused by a drunk driver.

    But, if, as we now see, 90% of fatalities are caused by drivers that are not actually, legally drunk what percentage would have happened irrespective of being drunk? 90%?

    If so, that means 1% of all fatalities are caused by people BECAUSE they are drunk.

    Hardly a crisis upon which to build a Police State, eh?

    • OOH math! Me Likee! Well stated- the same kind of reasoning is devastating to the mandatory seat belt and helmet propaganda. And every other illegitimate exercise of raw power usurped and foisted upon us in the last 150 some years.

  3. Most all accidents are “alcohol related” these days because there is alcohol in the gas tank – LOL

    (yeah, I know … except for diesels and plug in electrics)

  4. There is so much rampant dishonesty when it comes to so many “facts” now a days. Another car related one is “speed”. Example: This automobile accident (which probably wasn’t an “accident” to begin with) was speed related!

    And most people will accept these “facts” with no question when it’s brought to you by some government drone. If anything government “facts” should be questioned the most by folks, not just taken at face value.

    • Funny story, I had an accident at work in my personal vehicle going 0 mph.
      I was exiting a gate and the gate arm came down kung fu style and chopped a dent in my hood while I was under it. I eventually got my repairs through filing a Workers Comp claim and had to file a audio statement with a state investigator of some sort. They asked during the phone call how fast I was going when the accident happened, Zero, I said. The lady stopped and went silent and asked, wait what do you mean zero mph? After that every gate arm had a foam pool noodle zip tied to the bottom. Got a brand new $800 hood for the silverado out of it.

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