Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Drink and Drive

The Washington Post reports that the District's "zero tolerance" in issuing DUI's to drivers under the legal limit has been adjusted by order of the city council (it still has to be approved by the mayor). As mentioned earlier, one woman spent the night in jail after being pulled over at night for driving with her headlights off (she blames it on the valet) and, because she admitted to having one glass of wine, was charged with a DUI. Her BAL was 0.03, well below the 0.08 limit. Nevertheless, because of the said "zero tolerance," in the slammer she went. But after this story was publicized and calls flooded the city council, a law was passed 9-3 that will now presume drivers under 0.05 are not intoxicated and, as the Post's Eric Weiss explains, "The changes would place alcohol levels from .05 to .079 in a 'neutral zone' that would require other factors, such as sobriety field tests, to establish a driver's impairment."

Mayor Anthony Williams expressed concerns that the law was "hastily written" and pointed out that last year six drunk-driving fatalities involved drivers who had less than 0.08 alcohol in their systems. Fair enough. If the mayor approves the legislation, it will last 90 days and the council can then further amend the law where needed.

In the meantime, DC residents can now safely have a glass of wine or a beer and know they won't be spending a night in jail if they get pulled over because of a broken tail signal.

Special props go to the sponsor of this legislation, lone Republican Carol Schwartz, and her cosponsor--our beloved former mayor Marion Barry.


Anonymous said...

Now what the whole DC area needs is a zero-tolerance approach to driving with your headlights off. No one should go to jail for a BAC of .03, but neither should anyone go unpunished for driving in the dark or the rain without headlights. This is a particular problem in Northern Virginia. The woman in the Post story absolutely deserved to spend the night in jail, just not for what she was locked up for. Let's demand a little personal responsibility here, shall we, and not let some doofus get off blaming a valet and the city cops for her own dangerous incompetence.

Anonymous said...

So how many sober-driving fatalities involved drivers with 0.00 alcohol in their systems?

I'm betting greater than six. Using the Mayor's logic, shouldn't DC require drivers to have a drink before getting behind the wheel then?

Anonymous said...

The NTHSA has the following stats, for 2003, I believe, the most recent year as of when I checked. 9 percent of all wrecks and 41 percent of all fatalities were "alcohol related". According to their standards, there are six positions in an accident to consider. Drive and passenger of the offending vehicle (the one that caused the wreck), drive and passenger of the offended vehicle, pedestrians, and other. In other words, if four totally sober people drove off the road and crashed into a liquor store, this is an alcohol related incident. Seriously. What really bothers me the most are these two facts: One, if someone being drunk and a passenger, or a pedestrian, can skew the stats, then how many of that 41 percent are really CAUSED by alcohol? And if most fatalities and BY A TEN TO ONE MARGIN, most wrecks, are caused by sober people, shouldn't we all be drinking before we drive?
This is the problem with using stats to make laws. We should be using principles. Does it impair a driver to drink? Of course, we've shown that in studies. However, it also impairs a driver to listen to their kids argue, adjust the radio, try to light a cigarette, put on make-up, talk on cell-phones (even with hands free devices, that's been shown to be a serious distraction, just talking to someone on the phone, even worse than talking to someone in the car).
So why do we have drunk driving laws? Millions every year get pulled over, fined, and have their lives ruined for nothing. People get Felony convictions out of this, and that keeps them from renting apartments, getting loans, jobs, security clearances, from owning a gun. Why do we have to criminalize something that, while I personally detest those who drink and drive, but I am tired of the left in this country having a two pronged attack...a) we can do anything we want to THEM, cause they're criminals (felons, if it's something really bad they want to do, like take away their rights to gun ownership), and b) everyone can be a criminal, just slap your kid at WalMart, take a drink before you drive, spit on the sidewalk, or, my favorite, the lady here in Dallas who went to jail for NOT WEARING A SEATBELT. It's time for the conservatives to start spreading a little freedom here, and this time, it's freedom from government oppression, something we should be all about.

Anonymous said...

let's see, i grew up in the DC area, and i would have to say that one should be drunk at all times in order to tolerate the environment....bring back the bumper cars so we can all have a little fun in the crash and nobody gets hurt...unless you live in georgetown.