Reason: Hit & Run | Radley Balko | More on Abolishing Drunk Driving LawsDo read Balko's initial writing on this, and then this post.
But I'm not arguing in favor of a freedom to drive while obliterated, or that there's some right to drive drunk that outweighs the safety of other motorists and pedestrians. I'm arguing that public safety laws need to be clear, enforceable, and should actually achieve their intended purpose. I'm not sure our current DWI laws meet any of those criteria.
I don't have a problem with outlawing drunk driving. I have a problem with how we've defined "drunk driving" in the first place. Everything rests on that shaky premise.
Driving with a BAC of .801 is malum prohibitum, but we treat it as if it's malum in se. That bothers me.
I think people tend to make the same mistakes whenever measurement becomes possible. We accept, for instance, that there is a continuous range of behaviors between driving a safe, straight course down the center of your lane at reasonable speed and weaving in and out of your lane at erratic speeds. We know that drawing the dividing line on that continuum is a matter of judgement.
Similary there is a continuum from having no blood alcohol content and being so saturated with C2H6O that you're bordering on death. There is a sorites situation there: no single molecule of alcohol seperates "sober" from "drunk." But because we have a handy device for measuring this concentration, and a handy truth-from-the-imperial-city prononcement of where the according-to-Hoyle dividing line lies, we cease to treat this as a continuous situation. (Fallible) technology and (fallible) legislation has turned a continuous variable into a binary one.
In fact I object to the entire breathalyzer system of illegalization. From a scientific standpoint, they have terrible variance. . From a moral standpoint, they're a one-way-street. If you blow high, you're guilty. But if you blow under the cut off, you're not off the hook. Then it's just up to the officer. It's a test you can't actually pass.
I could go on with the other complaints I have — e.g. a law can either generate revenue or influence behavior to promote safety, but you get into trouble when you ask it to do both — but I'm just not going to. The end.