MADD & NHTSA Cook the Numbers on DUI Fatalities

For more than two decades NHTSA and MADD have justified the erosion of Constitutional rights and ever more severe punishment for DUI defendants by claiming there is carnage on our highways caused by drunk drivers.  Year after year they claim that there are approximately 18,000 alcohol related deaths on our highways.  Have you ever asked yourself how they arrived at their numbers?

Before MADD became a growth industry the statistics on traffic fatalities included a category for alcohol caused deaths. In order to build public (and legislative) support for roadblocks, lowered blood alcohol levels, and more severe penalties, NHTSA employed a clever slight of hand that would make a poker cheat blush.  Now we have alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Note that alcohol related does not mean caused by alcohol.

For example, if a sober driver is unfortunate enough to have a drunk run across the street in front of his car and the drunk pedestrian is killed, NHTSA would categorize the death as alcohol related.  It would certainly be alcohol related, but not in the sense that the average reader would expect.  Even if a sober driver’s car was struck by another sober designated driver’s car carrying an intoxicated friend home, NHTSA would call that an alcohol related death.  Perhaps more unbelievable is the case where an officer initially believes a driver is intoxicated but a breath or blood test shows he is not.  NHTSA still categorizes the fatality as alcohol related.  Last, if a test reveals the presence of any alcohol, the death is still regarded as alcohol related.

When the General Accounting Office (GAO) reviewed these figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the GAO reported that they raised methodological concerns calling their conclusions into question .  NHTSA’s numbers, fall short of providing conclusive evidence that .08% BAC laws were, by themselves, responsible for reductions in alcohol related fatalities.  This means that the statistics were not valid when examining alcohol-related fatalities, much less alcohol-caused deaths.

Some independent investigations have come up with numbers much different from those published by NHTSA.  The Los Angeles Times  found that only about 5,000 deaths per year involved a drunk driver causing the death of a sober driver, passenger or pedestrian.  Responsibility in DUI Laws, Inc. put the number at closer to 3,000.  Nevertheless, MADD and NHTSA continue to mislead the public to justify the passage of  increasingly punitive DUI laws.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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