ABI: MADD’s Solutions Don’t Focus on Real Problem

February 8, 2005

The American Beverage Institute (ABI) is challenging a lobbying push by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to implement sobriety checkpoints in Texas, saying that the group is pursuing tactics that target responsible adults, not drunk drivers.

“By calling for increased roadblocks and PR campaigns, MADD is studiously ignoring the root cause of today’s drunk driving problem – hard core product abusers,” said ABI Executive Director John Doyle.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reportedly shows that the average blood alcohol content (BAC) of a drunk driver in a fatal car crash is 0.19% – more than twice the legal limit. The NHTSA administrator said that today’s problem is “by far and away” made up of “those who have alcohol use disorders.” And a NHTSA study found that “specific deterrence
strategies, like roving patrols that ‘hunt down’ DWIs, might be the optimum means for targeting the hard core drinking driver.”

Despite NHTSA data on where the true drunk driving problem reportedly lies and which programs are most effective, law enforcement spent millions of dollars and deployed countless man-hours on roadblock campaigns last holiday season.

Reports from around the nation reportedly indicate that the operations yielded minimal arrests. An explanation for these low drunk driving arrests can reportedly be found in a landmark government study of roadblocks conducted by NHTSA which found that drunk drivers actually “used their knowledge of checkpoints to avoid arrest by
selecting alternate routes.” They also determined that roving patrols, which roam highways in search of erratic and aggressive drivers, were considerably more effective at nabbing drunk drivers than roadblock campaigns.

“[T]he number of DWI arrests made by the roving patrol program was nearly three times the average number of DWIs made by the checkpoint programs,” NHTSA reported. “If making a large number of DWI arrests is an objective of a program, [the data] clearly suggests that roving patrols would be the preferred option.”

“While the problem at the root of drunk driving has changed, our
strategies to address it have not. Unfortunately, instead of focusing efforts on the chronic drunk drivers, many in the traffic safety community are targeting the millions of responsible Americans who choose to drink responsibly before driving with expensive PR campaigns and sweeping roadblocks,” Doyle said.

ABI noted that in 2003, without using roadblock campaigns, Texas saw a dramatic decrease of 101 deaths – nearly one-fifth of the nationwide drop in alcohol-related fatalities. This decrease is reportedly greater than any reductions experienced in states that do employ roadblocks like California, which saw only two fewer deaths over the same period.

“Roadblocks, lower arrest thresholds, and red-ribbon campaigns are not going to change the behavior of chronic drunk drivers,” Doyle said. “The experience of the last six years shows that these measures serve only to intimidate responsible adults and do little to save lives. Worse, they divert funds and attention from the core mission of getting drunk drivers off the road.”

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