According to a press release sent out by the neo-prohibitionist organization MADD yesterday, it’s the five-year anniversary of the launching of their Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® program, which you can tell is all about the results since they went to the trouble to get a “registered trademark” on the name. I also find it somewhat ironic that an organization whose name is “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” has to start a side campaign within its organization to eliminate drunk driving. Isn’t that supposed to be their main purpose? It was, of course — once upon a time — but it’s moved so far from that simple idea now that it seems it’s almost an afterthought so that five years ago they had to create a new program to address the issue of drunk driving.
So yesterday they released the somewhat arrogantly-named “Report to the Nation, which rates each state on its progress toward eliminating drunk driving.” The news is just what you’d expect, indeed what it is every time. “[W]e’ve made substantial progress together, but there is still much work to be done.” And so it goes. Every time. They have to make progress, or why do they even exist, but there always has to be more to do, or else who would keep giving them money? That dichotomy creates contradictions that call all of their assertions into question. For example, on page 6 of the 32-page report, a splash page entitled “A New Hope,” the headline is “drunk driving fatalities reduced by almost half.” And that would certainly be good news, I don’t dispute that. Except that what they refer to as “remarkable progress” in the first paragraph morphs into something entirely different by the second paragraph, which begins: “Despite great progress, drunk driving fatalities have remained relatively stagnant since the mid-nineties, with roughly one out of three highway deaths caused by a drunk driver.” Now how exactly can fatalities be “reduced by almost half” while at the same time “remaining relatively stagnant?”
It’s a game, sadly. Non-profits may not care about profits the way corporations do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about money … a lot. They complain constantly about the money that alcohol companies spend on lobbying or influencing policy, but that’s exactly what these neo-prohibitionist groups do, too. Most non-profits may start out with the best of intentions, with a clear goal in mind, but then seem to collapse under their own weight into money-sucking organizations nearly as bad as those they often rail against as they grow larger. In a sense, they become victims of their own success. They become “institutions,” with fixed costs, offices, salaries to pay, consultant fees, marketing materials, advertising, webmasters, etc. They need a lot of money just to take care of their day-to-day costs, never mind whatever they’re trying to achieve. MADD’s gone so far from their original intent that when my son was in kindergarten, he got a bookmark from them during “red Ribbon Week” so he’d know that drugs are bad. Never mind that he parroted that message the next time we tried to give him medicine when he was sick, not quite old enough to process that not ALL drugs were bad.
The “report” also floats yet another made up number of how much it all costs, this time that “drunk driving costs the United States more than $132 billion annually.,” similar to the CDC’s recent $223.5 billion figure, though that was for “excessive alcohol use,” not just driving. Their “research” was done by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), and their figure “includes $61 billion in monetary costs, plus quality-of-life losses valued at $71 billion,” just as notoriously impossible to quantify as lost wages, though they did still try to include “crashes outside of work involving employees and benefit-eligible dependents.” The full study itself, however, is not included in the “report,” just a one-paragraph summary of it so I don’t know all of the particulars.
Another aspect of the report is about “turning cars into the cure,” which really means just “ignition locks,” one of the most invasive ideas ever implemented, especially for first-time offenders who do not constitute the bulk of the problem. What continues to bother me about this is that MADD, and the rest of the Anti-Alcohol bunch, continue to ignore supporting a much better solution, the technology to create cars that drive themselves. That technology is surprisingly close to becoming a reality, with several prototypes in various states of development and being tested. It would virtually eliminate not just drunk driving, but bad driving, texting and telephone issues while driving, and so much more. Just input the address of where you want to go into a computer and the car takes you there while you sit and watch. Instead, MADD seems to prefer technology that punishes. At a minimum, why not support both?
But the bulk of the “report,” around half of it, is their evaluations of how each state is doing to combat drunk driving, at least according to their criteria. They use a five-star scale, with each star representing whether the state does what MADD wants them to regarding the following:
- Interlocks for All First-Times Convicted Drunk Drivers
- Sobriety Checkpoints
- Administrative License Revocation
- Child Endangerment
- No Refusal
Five states got highest marks:
And like a good bell curve, five got just 1 (nobody got a zero):
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
There’s also an interactive map where you can see how your state did. California, for example, got a surprising 4. I’m sure Alcohol Justice would disagree with that one.
The states that got a five are still, of course, encouraged to do more. And by more, MADD means for each state to accept what they think is the best approach. Do what we say, or risk a bad rating, that seems to be at least part of the message. With most states receiving a three, there’s plenty of room for improvement, and plenty of need for more fund-raising.