Drinking Improves Highway Safety (Apparently)

By Jim Baxter, NMA President

A new federal study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (part of the US Dept. of Health and Human services) just confirmed that states with the highest levels of self-reported drinking and driving also have the safest highways.

The State of Wisconsin was the overall winner with more than 25 percent of its drivers reporting that in the previous year they had drank an alcoholic beverage before (or perhaps while) driving. This was more than twice the national rate!

Clearly, this is compelling evidence that action is needed, but not in Wisconsin.

The “facts” from this federally sponsored survey, when correlated with federally produced highway safety data, suggest that many more states should follow Wisconsin’s lead and increase their percentages of drinking drivers.

According to the most recently published federal data Wisconsin’s highway fatality rate (fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) is significantly lower than the national average (1.22 vs. 1.41 in 2006).

The same widely published press release pointed out that Utah with its anti-alcohol Mormon population had the lowest percentage of self-confessed drinking drivers.

In the interest of full disclosure it should be pointed out that the highway fatality rate in Utah is lower than is Wisconsin’s, but not nearly as low as Minnesota’s, another drinking and driving haven. Could it be that those Lutherans that charm Garrison Keiler are just better drivers than the Mormons?

OK, enough satire.

This so-called survey is a glaring example of government propaganda, sloppy and lazy reporting, and misinformation on a grand scale.

Let’s try a little dose of reality:

First, over a year’s time the percentage of Wisconsin drivers that drink and drive, at least once, is nowhere near 25 percent. The real percentage has to be at least 50 percent and probably nearer 75 percent.

A drink with dinner, a wedding reception, holiday gatherings, church picnics, softball leagues, retirement functions, euchre tournaments, bowling, community festivals, and a myriad of other occasions may involve having a drink, or more, and driving home. And, contrary to the characterizations blathered in the mindless media revelations, these are not automatically episodes of “drunk driving.”

There is no doubt that the ethnic make-up of Wisconsin and its neighboring states encourages and condones the consumption of beverages containing alcohol. That’s one of the reasons Wisconsin residents “self report” drinking and driving at higher percentages than other states.

However, they are not immune to the neo-prohibitionist jihad and therefore they are not as candid as they might or could be. The under-reporting in other states is undoubtedly equal to or greater than that in Wisconsin.

Here’s what you can take away from this federal “survey” and its subsequent circulation: Most self-reported behavior is disingenuous. Drinking and driving are NOT synonymous with drunk driving. Moderate drinking and driving are not synonymous with high accident or fatality rates. And, all governments produce self-serving propaganda, and an unthinking press prints and circulates that propaganda. End of story.

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