MADD Flunks the Truth Test
by Edward Haas
For reasons yet obscure, Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been misleading the citizens of America for many years now, while accelerating their legislative agenda with little or no scrutiny from the media or the public. MADD has been caught cheating on the honesty test, and as is the case in almost every testing environment, if you get caught cheating on a test, you get an automatic failing grade of F. MADD has instituted a grading system to indicate which states are passing the DUI enforcement test. Consequently, MADD should be held to their own high standard of check and balance.
In a recent article released by the Associated Press..., MADD President Wendy Hamilton that the number of drunk driving deaths in the United States rose last year after holding steady during most of the 1990s.
According to Hamilton, there were 17,448 drunken driving deaths in 2001, up from 16, 572 in 1999. That simply is not true. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 17,448 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2001, but they were not all the result of drunk driving as Hamilton claims.
The NHTSA defines a fatal traffic crash as being alcohol-related if either a driver or a non-occupant (e.g., pedestrian) has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 grams per deciliter (g/dl) or greater in a police-reported traffic crash. To put 0.01 g/dl in perspective, ten times that amount is required to achieve a BAC of 0.10 g/dl, which is the legal limit of intoxication in most states. Yet MADD continues to mislead America by allowing the public to believe that there were 17,448 victims of drunk drivers in 2001.
In laymen terms, if a legally sober driver is involved in a traffic accident in which another legally sober person is killed, and the person killed happened to drink one beer 30 minutes prior to the accident, the NHTSA will classify that fatality as alcohol-related, and MADD will use that particular fatality to bolster its numbers in an effort to persuade the legislature to enact tougher laws to curb drunk driving.
To further illustrate, according to MADD, there were 16,653 drunken driving deaths in 2000, while the NHTSA refers to these same fatalities as alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Of these 16,653 alcohol-related fatalities, 12,892 involved at least one driver or non-occupant with a BAC of 0.10 g/dl or greater. 7,326 were the intoxicated drivers themselves, and 1,594 were legally intoxicated pedestrians and pedal-cyclists. The remaining 3,972 fatalities were non-intoxicated drivers, passengers, and non-occupants. So how many actual victims of drunk driving were there in 2000? Excluding the 7,326 legally intoxicated drivers and 1,594 legally intoxicated pedestrians/pedal-cyclists, there remain 3,972 fatalities. But not all of these deaths can be considered victims because the NHTSA doesn't concern itself with the cause of accidents. So if a sober driver is speeding and crashes into another driver who happens to legally intoxicated, and the speeding driver dies; is the speeding driver's death a alcohol-related fatality? Of course it isn't, but the public will be spoon fed this death as the tragic result of drunk driving. (MADD consistently implies and/or allows the public to believe that all alcohol-related traffic fatalities reported by the NHTSA are in fact innocent victims of drunk driving).
Sadly, MADD appears indifferent toward the intoxicated drivers death, as there is no effort to memorialize their familiy's suffering on the MADD web site, yet MADD continues to use these no less tragic, unfortunate deaths to pressure their way through our legislative branch. The fact is that an estimated 30 to 75 percent of people who are arrested for DUI in this nation have alcohol abuse problems, or are suffering from the disease of alcoholism. MADD wants these people punished, but punishment doesn't treat diseases. The notion that we can and/or should continue to expect favorable results by the practice of punishing and treating alcoholism simultaneously within our nations prison systems is questionable at best.
MADD could help to make our highways dramatically safer, if only they would use a portion of their resources to explore treatment options for alcoholics, rather than clinging onto the belief that the chronic offender / alcoholic can somehow be beaten into submission. It is a well-known fact that it costs taxpayers approximately 7 times more money to keep a person incarcerated, than it would to provide the alcoholic and/or chemically dependent sufferer with adequate treatment in an licensed alcoholism / addiction treatment facility.
MADD, in pursuit of nationwide sobriety checkpoints, is partly responsible for the asterisk that was assigned to our Constitutions Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure. In the majority ruling, (Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990)) the United States Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist wrote, Drunk drivers cause an annual death toll of over 25,000. Thats simply not accurate data. Assuming that Justice Rehnquist was referring to the statistics of 1989, according to the NHTSA, there were 22,404 alcohol-related traffic fatalities, and as illustrated, not all these fatalities are the result of drunk driving as MADD and the United States Supreme Court contend. The Supreme Court referenced the enormity of the drunk driving problem in our nation to justify the appropriateness of its ruling; yet the statistics they referenced were skewed at the outset. It is curious why the Supreme Court rounded that particular statistic up rather than down, but regardless of their motivation, their claim doesnt match the statistics.
MADD has an awesome responsibility to convey accurate information to the American people, and to not mislead our lawmakers. They have failed in regard to that responsibility. Unfortunately, MADD flunks the honesty test.
Reprinted with permission of Edward Haas of the Muckraker Report (http://www.muckraker-report.org/id7.html)
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