Has MADD lost it's objectives?

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.


This thread seems very serious, so I don’t want to interject too much, but I would like to say that if the percentage of drunk drivers plateaued at some still-suibstantial number, then why would the push for extra revenue by the impetus for police departments to support a .08% BAC level. Shouldn’t they still have plenty of people to go after with a .1% BAC level?

I must say that I’m not sure I understand the move from .1 to .08, but I would have to assume that there was, at some point, a determination that at even .08% BAC, driving ability is pretty impaired. The .05% BAC limit for DWAI, however, I find a little credibility-stretching.

I would not assume that there is good science for the move from .1 to .08. These sorts of laws (and probably most laws) are not debated with facts being marshalled by each side. They are proposed by politicians wanting to demonstrate that they are doing something about the problem. The opposition to them has an uphill climb to explain why they are pro drunk driving.

I’m surprised none of the athiests on the board picked up on this, from The MADDvocate:

Other than the parody group; DrunksAgainstMadMothers, here’s a group opposed to part of MADD’s agenda: From the MADDatGM website, opposing views on:

The BAC: “The New England Journal of Medicine and the University of Utah, among others, 0.08% BAC is less of an “impairment” than driving with a hands-free cell phone. And as over twenty years of research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows, 0.08% BAC is not where the problem lies.”

Prohibition?: "MADD’s founder, Candy Lightner, has distanced herself from the group because of its extreme agenda, telling the Washington Times, ‘[MADD] has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned … I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving’”

Roadblocks: “The number of DWI arrests made by the roving patrol program was nearly three times the average number of DWIs made by the [roadblock] programs.”

Alcohol Taxes: "MADD says tax hikes are a way to reduce underage drinking—but the research does not back them up. A recent literature review of the science by a prominent researcher found that studies “have found no evidence for the effects of taxation and price on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related traffic fatalities, either among youth or in the general population.”

Before I go dig up the charts I found again Mtgman, a couple things about yours…

Gauging alcohol related fatalities is something that’s always confused me, and I think it’s often intentionally manipulated by groups for their own ends. For instance, the NHTSA numbers you posted show 17,013 ‘alcohol-related fatalities’ and then goes on to say 14,630 persons still were killed in crashes that involved a driver or nonoccupant with blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater. What then was the result of those other 2383 deaths?

And then out of those 17,013 alcohol related fatalities, ~56% of them wouldn’t have been wearing seatbelts according to the article-so can you really completely blame alcohol as the sole cause? Especially when over 0.08 BAC might be illegal, but is certainly not impairing to all people and not more noticeably impairing than .1% (depending on who you ask). Alcohol related doesn’t necessarily mean alcohol caused, and in fact often time the “relation” may be one of the smaller causes.

Then your second chart refers to accidents ‘Under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication’ which brings a whole other set of issues. Many states for instance will issue a DUI for people under the influence of drugs, and this can further skew the alcohol related numbers as there’s little differentiation when reporting statistics between the two. Thus you’ll see a higher DUI rate attributed to alcohol when in fact many of them are attributed to drugs of some sort.

As for the cost thing, you’re dead on for a large scale. I think the places that DUI are lucrative would be small-towns which are along major thoroughfares. I’m not sure how exactly to find data on that, but I’ll see what I can do. I have a sneaking suspicion though that small-towns do in fact profit off of DUI, just as they do other traffic tickets.

And just to throw something new into the debate re: BAC. When I got my DUI, I had a BAC of .24% but passed the field sobriety test. The officer in fact would have let me go had I not been a minor, and thus any detectable amount was illegal. As it was he apologized for having to write the ticket but didn’t take me to jail and let someone come pick me up. He was irate when another officer showed up right when my new ride did, went ahead and breathalyzed me, and realized that I was way over the limit. All I’m saying is that BAC is really not a good judge of sobriety.

I did not say that MADD has changed their focus to being a temperance movement. I believe they’re certainly trying to explore new ways of getting people to stop drinking and driving at the same time, but that cannot fairly be called a “Temperance movement,” which implies a lot more than that.

Percentage of U.S. traffic fatalities involving impaired drivers, from the U.S. federal government, as cited by MADD themselves:


As you can see there is a very clear drop from 1982 to about 1994 or so, both in terms of total drunk-related fatalities and as a percentage of overall fatalities. (Overall fatalities have been remarkably consistent; while there’s more people driving, cars are safer than they used to be, drunks are killing fewer, and I’ve heard better trauma medicine may be helping too.)

You can see, however, that progress pretty much stopped in the mid-90s. Since then drunk driving fatalities have been almost creepily consistent.