Under the Influence Of Bad Legislation

JUNE 21, 2010

Sounding like a prediction from George Orwell’s 1984, after July 1 the counties of Sacramento, Los Angeles, Tulare and Alameda will require first-time convicted drunk drivers to install ignition lock devices in their vehicles. We are supposed to feel okay about this intrusive and creepy device because 14 other states already have similar laws.

Assembly member Mike Feurer, D-Los Angeles, authored AB 91, which creates a Department of Motor Vehicles pilot project mandating the interlocking ignition device, with the idea of instilling more confidence in California’s drivers. If the DMV is running the project, I’m sure it will work.

But what’s more disturbing is how this radical agenda came to be. Overzealousness for a cause is at the heart of the matter, with Mothers Against Drunk Driving CEO Chuck Hurley leading the charge.

According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, MADD’s overreaching legal effort “is a manifestation of MADD’s deep-seated belief that any and all drinking before driving should be prohibited — regardless of whether it’s done responsibly and legally. Instead of focusing on repeat offenders and those who are too drunk to drive, the twenty-first-century MADD endorses higher beverage taxes, needlessly low drunk driving arrest thresholds, and roadblocks designed to frighten people out of social drinking. These tactics have failed to reduce drunk driving deaths, since they target social drinkers, not product abusers.”

Still pushing for a return to federally-mandated speed limits, federally-mandated red light cameras, a blood alcohol count of .04, and “pay as you go” GPS devices to collect driving taxes, MADD’s agenda has moved well beyond the health and welfare of drivers, and straight on to politics.

MADD’s CEO Chuck Hurley pushed aggressively to get state legislatures to pass laws mandating the ignition interlock devices in the cars of all first-time drunk driving offenders. Hurley even lobbied for bills in some states that would have required the ignition devices in every car sold new. Fortunately, that has not happened… yet.

In addition to pushing for states to adopt the .08 minimum blood alcohol standard, Hurley also very aggressively pushed for the use of roadblock checkpoints to enforce “sobriety,” even though The Cato Institute says that “the data strongly suggest that not only is the standard too low, but the resources we’re expending to enforce it actually may have made the roads more dangerous.

“When President Clinton signed the .08 law in 2000, every state was forced to either comply with the law or give up millions of dollars in federal highway money,” said Cato’s Radley Balko. “Critics at the time pointed to numerous studies showing that motorists aren’t significantly impaired at .08, and that in fact, most drunk driving fatalities occur at .15 or higher. Lowering the national standard from .10 to .08, then, was a bit like lowering the speed limit from 55 to 50 to catch motorists who zip along at 100 miles per hour.”

The police who work the checkpoints should and normally would be out patrolling on the streets and highways, looking for dangerous drunks and criminals who are a real threat to drivers and passengers. The sobriety checkpoints are nothing more than revenue generators for cities, counties, and insurance companies.

Balko discovered that the Supreme Court gave its consent to random sobriety checkpoint roadblocks in 1992, despite conceding that they are probably a violation of the Fourth Amendment. “Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist ruled that the threat to highway safety posed by drunk driving justifies suspending our constitutional protection from illegal search and seizure, as well as our Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Drunk driving activists seized on the ruling and moved to employ roadblocks all over the country,” Balko wrote.

Most telling perhaps of the monster MADD has become, MADD’s founder, Candace Lightner, has renounced the group, calling them “neo-prohibitionists.”

MADD has become a group of anti-alcohol zealots, and an equally zealous proponent of every highway regulation under the ruse of public safety. Rather than use “Impairment” for the criteria to determine if somebody is “drunk,” MADD relentlessly drills into the American public that anyone drinking and driving is a societal problem and must be harshly dealt with.

MADD has also successfully inflated traffic fatality statistics. MADD spokespeople and literature cite high levels of alcohol-related traffic deaths by classifying as “alcohol-related.” But “alcohol-related” is not synonymous with “alcohol caused.” The National Motorists Association explains on its website that “Alcohol related” statistics paint a picture of epidemic proportions that demand government action (and money) and a mobilization of citizen action. It justifies bigger budgets, more authority for enforcement agencies, and rationalizes a whole industry designed to feed off the “Drunk Driving epidemic.”

Actual “drunk” driving is a serious issue, but in spite of the progress that has been made in public education and awareness, as well as a dramatic reduction of drunk-driving incidents, “Today’s MADD is a far cry from what Candy Lightner started in 1980,” says the Center for Consumer Freedom. “The group is now a $45 million business that is virtually unrecognizable from the MADD of the 1980s. MADD has become an anti-alcohol organization that has found a backdoor to prohibition: in-car alcohol detectors — set at levels far below the legal limit-installed in every vehicle.”

California’s ignition device pilot project will be funded by a block grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – the same agency that President Obama named Chuck Hurley to head before Hurley quickly removed his name from consideration.

Once the fees start flowing in, the anti-alcohol zealots will try to push more radical controlling laws. But fear not: at least low-income and poverty level drunk drivers will have the cost of the ignition device subsidized, and it’s written right into the bill.

-Katy Grimes

3 comments

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  1. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 22 June, 2010, 07:34

    Liberals in general and progressives in particular are all in for controlling the behavior of their neighbors, ‘for their own good’.

    This is how you identify these people.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ted
    Ted 22 June, 2010, 08:57

    It does not surprise me that you wrote this article after having advocated for an illegal alien amnesty or legalization. You seem to forget the hurt to families who lose loved ones due to drunk driving. You seem well adjusted to the unlawfulness of drinking/driving and violating immigration laws. Many others are not.

    Reply this comment
  3. Darryl
    Darryl 25 June, 2010, 12:42

    Ted you need to learn how to read and comprehend. DUI laws should be about stopping drunk drivers (0.15 and above)the one that hurt families, not social drinkers at 0.04 as proposed by MADD. The 0.04 or 0.08 for that matter aren’t the one killing lioved ones. For your information, the law is 0.08, so by definition it’s legal to drink and drive as long as the BAC is below 0.08. How about your average speeders and drivers that use cell phones, shouldn’t we through them in jail too?

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