Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Drunken driving down

The number of traffic fatalities involving drivers with blood alcohol levels of .08 or higher decreased last year. It wasn't much of a diminution - from 13,582 to 13,470, 1% - but nonetheless, it was a decrease.

The Associated Press headline today, however, is " Alcohol-related driving deaths up." How can that be?

Keep in mind that alcohol-related statistics agglomerate together into one big number any and all traffic accidents and fatalities in which any amount of alcohol is involved in any way. For example, a 6-pack, unconsumed, in a trunk, could count towards this stat.

This increase last year was one-half of 1%.

It is interesting to note that in the the state in which sales of higher alcohol beer had most recently been allowed - North Carolina - drunken driving deaths (.08 blood alcohol limit or higher) have decreased. (South Carolina altered its law this year, so the statistics don't reflect that. )

Drunken driving is, of course, a bad thing. I'm not saying it isn't; I don't know of anyone who would condone it. But the MADD proscription encourages this unintended consequence: drinkat home, alone, rather than with others in salubrious conversation and fellowship.

I've often said, in only half-hearted jest, that drunk-driving could be prevented by building more pubs. If more of us could walk to our local, fewer of us would drive there. In our drive-to, drive-in, drive-by society, a bit of a zeitgeist shift wouldn't hurt.

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