Sunday, October 30, 2011

DUI statistics used, incorrectly again, for the force of good?

The hand of Prohibition is still being felt across the country, if this article from Pennsylvania is any indication. The author notes that "privatization" actually seems to reduce DUI fatalities. By privatization, he means allowing merchants to decide what type of alcoholic beverage to sell, and when to sell it, to the maximum extent possible.  The article specifically points to DUI in Illinois as an example of lower DUI fatality rates.  The author notes:
"I compared Pennsylvania's alcohol-related traffic fatalities with those of the five largest states that freely allow sales to adults of all three types of alcoholic beverage — beer, wine and spirits (the hard stuff, such as gin and whiskey) — in grocery stores."
Upon comparing those results according to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), he see that:
"In 2008, the most recent year for which I found statistics, every one of those five states had fewer fatalities per capita than Pennsylvania, which had one alcohol-related traffic fatality for each 25,604 in population. In California it was one per 36,248; Illinois, Indiana and Michigan were only slightly worse; and in Massachusetts the rate was only one in 52,419."
While I think the author is essentially correct, I'd feel . . . remiss, I suppose . . . if I didn't at least point out that he is using the same failed logical argument that leads those who (whether they consciously recognize it or not) promote prohibition, such as MADD or AAIM advocates. These advocates all miss, intentionally in some cases, a very important distinction.

The statistics and figures given by the NHTSA do not measure drunk driving fatality.

These statistics include any person involved in an accident with any measurable amount of alcohol present in their system. Thus, a rear-seat passenger with a blood-alcohol content of 0.01 (which incidentally may not indicate consumption of alcoholic beverage at all) in a vehicle driven by a completely sober driver determined to be not-at-fault would still be considered in the accident. Doubt me? Check the glossary in NHTSA's own documents here under the term "Alcohol Involvement".

The value of theses statistics is dubious. The value of drawing conclusions related to the efficacy of DUI law in Illinois or any other State of the union is almost . . . silly. Or perhaps more accurately . . . pernicious?