Have one for the road...
When I saw this brief entry in WSJ's Taste Page about a group of bar owners complaining about GM's support of MADD, which in turn has supported the 0.8 BAC, I thought "go bar owners". I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with this thought - Andrew Stuttaford at NRO has similar thoughts
Drunk driving tends to be seen as a universal bad, so anyone who goes against drunk driving laws is seen as promoting a deadly behavior. Going against MADD is like being for running puppies through blenders.
But MADD isn't just against drunk driving anymore - they are against any drinking and driving. Their website like to say things like there is no "safe" amount of alcohol for drivers. Arguably, even one drink impairs you. But so does listening to the radio, talking on your cell phone, drinking a cup of coffee, yelling at your kids in the backseat, being tired, angry, upset, or happy, or a million other things that aren't, and shouldn't, be regulated.
I have no problem with going after very drunk drivers. But the dangerous drivers - the ones who cause lots of crashes - have much higher BAC's - the MADD at GM website says 0.19 is the average BAC for drunk drivers in fatal crashes.
I've never driven drunk. At least, I don't think I have. But with the ever-falling BAC, it's easy to to not be sure if you are over the limit. The fact that lots of drivers probably stop after one or two beers because they don't want to risk being over an arbitrary limit probably does hurt bar owners.
MADD has lots of stats on their website. Many of them are obvious statements presented as if they are stunning revelations, which makes me think MADD members don't get out much. They reveal, for example, that beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage, and that teenagers tend to drink at parties while older people tend to drink at bars. Gee, I wonder why. But other stats demand closer examination, like their frequent use of "alchohol-involved crash". Accidents will frequently have more than one cause, so if someone with a couple drinks in them driving a car with no brakes or headlights hits a deer at night in the rain, it's an alcohol-involved crash despite the other factors.
One other thought is that MADD will frequently profile an unusually tragic drunk-driving crash - the guy whose been drinking for 36 hours and hits a kid playing in the street kind of thing. But their own stats point out that most "drunk driving" takes place at nights, especially on weekends. If your kid is out at 2 in the morning on a Saturday night, they have bigger problems than drunk drivers.
Another problem with drunk-driving enforcement is that it gives cops an excuse to do things like set up drunk driving checkpoints - which is an inconvinience to motorists, an excuse to write lots of tickets for stupid things, and a chance to invade motorist's privacy. Autoblog has a short article and link to a longer one profiling one such checkpoint. Total drunk drivers caught? Zero, but they did get to write lots of other tickets.
I would like to see a reasonable debate over drunk driving, with some cost-benefit analysis, some proper perspective, and less attempts to make every person who has a drink and drives home out to be a mass-murderer. I'm not sure if the MADD AT GM campaign will do much - the site is long on pseudo-sensational exposes about GM and short on stats and good argument - but at least it starts a dialog.