Well, one way to inform the debate is to present data. RickJay, you mentioned you believe MADD has changed their focus from being anti-drunk-driving to being a temperance movement. Your arguement for why this change occurred is interesting(plateau in the death rate due to DUI). Do you have anything to back it up aside from the personal anecdotal evidence you shared? I’m not trying to belittle your contribution at all. However, I’m serious in my offer of taking this arguement directly to MADD HQ across the street and I would rather have objective, citable arguements than anecdotes.
DaleJ42, any idea how big these DUI budgets are? Any idea what the percentages are? What about the DUI budgets compared to the amount spent on cleanup and processing of DUI-related accidents? Surely if they could reduce the amount of DUI accidents then the costs in manpower, supplies, etc. would more than make up this shortfall. A single DUI accident probably costs far more than $5,000 to clean up. One with fatalities and multiple injuries would cost FAR more. From the city’s persepective reducing DUI is a win even if the DUI budget goes away because the overall cost of operating emergency services goes down because of less DUI-related accidents(which are, as RickJay noted, still appalingly high). I’m always wary of “they’re doing it to preserve their revenue streams” arguements because I find it hard to believe the police, as a matter of policy, put their budgetary concerns over the safety of the 35-40% of traffic fatalities attributed to DUI.
I found a breakdown of Washington State’s DUI revenue from 1996-2000 on the Washington MADD website. It has DUI revenue for the state in 2000 as $13,397,564. The Washington State Factbook page on Revenue Sources says that in 2000-2001 the total state revenues were $29,989,200,000. It isn’t immediately clear if this is an average for the two years or a sum for the two years so I’ll do the math both ways. $13,397,564 / $14,994,600,000 = 0.00089 or 0.089%. Less than a tenth of a single percent of their revenue comes from DUI. Divide that number in half if the state revenue numbers are averages per year instead of a total for two years.
To take a different financial tack, we can turn to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Encyclopedia page. They have a bunch of interesting PDF documents. I’m looking at the Traffic Safety Facts 2003(PDF) at the moment. The Administrator’s Message on page iii is very interesting.
BAC laws and Seatbelt laws are two of the primary focuses of MADD. Here we have the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration praising exactly those initiatives for decreasing deaths and urging them to continue. This would argue against the idea that MADD’s major focus areas are no longer effective. Also from the document, there is a chart on page 2 which is kind of a high-level summary. There is a very interesting line item on it.
If even 1% of this cost is the fatal accidents due to alcohol then that is 2.3 Billion dollars per year which could be saved in economic costs from accidents. 2.3 Billion is many, MANY times more money which could be saved than states likely take in via DUI fines. It would take about 200 times what Washington took in via DUI revenues to offset even a small percentage change in the costs of accidents in the US. If each state took in over four times what Washington, via DUI revenue, did in 2000 it wouldn’t make a dent in what they could save if they could reduce numbers, and therefore the costs, of accidents in this country.
On page 116(table 65) there is a “Related Factors for Drivers and Motorcycle Operators Involved in Fatal Crashes” chart. A couple of lines from that chart speak to some of the points we’ve been talking about.
I’m not sure this is apples to apples because about a third of accidents had no listed cause, but it does seem that drowsiness is far less of a factor than alcohol(less than a third as much).
Anyone is of course welcome to read the reports or bring other data to the table, but right now it looks like supporting seat belt and BAC laws is a reasonable approach to the problem which is showing results.