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NMA E-Newsletter #302: The NMA Weighs In on Federal V2V Proposal

Posted on October 26th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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In a September e-newsletter we discussed how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was soliciting public comments about its proposal to create a national standard to require Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications capability on all passenger cars and light trucks. NMA President Gary Biller submitted the following comments outlining the NMA’s concerns over this technology. You can learn more about NHTSA’s V2V rulemaking process here.

Many important players from various fields (automotive, privacy/civil rights, insurance, etc.) have provided comments in response to the V2V proposal as well. We will be reviewing these in detail and providing you with their perspectives in future newsletters.

 

I am commenting on behalf of the National Motorists Association, a drivers’ rights organization founded over 30 years ago to represent the interests of the motoring public. Our membership consists of several thousand members across the United States. Together we are keenly interested in participating in the national conversation about the development of V2V technology requirements. Thank you for providing a valuable forum for the public to comment on an issue that will affect all road users. 

Our primary interests fall within Subsections e (Public Acceptance), f (Privacy Concerns), g (V2V Communications Security), h (Liability), and j (Preliminary Benefits Estimates). Because NHTSA is expected to separately publish a draft Privacy Impact Assessment and ask for input from the public at that time, we will forego commenting on Subsection f at this time. 

Subsection e – Public Acceptance
Because communications and surveillance technology has been advancing at a rapid pace in recent years, far outpacing legislative attempts to provide consumer protections, the public is skeptical of the motives behind V2V. Despite some intriguing safety applications that can be made possible by V2V communications, public acceptance will hinge greatly upon safeguards put in place to ensure that DSRC information is secure from malicious use and isn’t captured, stored, or otherwise used by governmental agencies to monitor movements and behaviors of motorists. While NHTSA expresses confidence that V2V data won’t be available for such uses, the creation and implementation of V2V applications will be by auto manufacturers and third parties with profit motives. The public will need greater assurance through the standards developed by NHTSA that proper privacy controls will be in place. 

The cost of implementation of V2V is another area of public concern. While adding an estimated $350 to the cost of a light vehicle by 2020 may seem a small price to pay for the potential safety benefits of the technology that is very definitely a burden for many new car buyers and for vehicle owners faced with retrofit packages. If V2V technology is expected to produce tangible safety benefits, then much of the cost of implementation should be offset by lower vehicle insurance premiums, or be financed directly by the insurance industry. 

Subsection g – V2V Communications Security
When data are transferred wirelessly, the threat of appropriation and malicious use of that information exists. Robust safeguards must be integrated into NHTSA V2V standards and the design criteria for implementers of the technology. Motorists must be assured that their privacy is secure within their own vehicles and protected when information is transmitted from their vehicles. 

Subsection h – Liability
Section X of the research report concentrates primarily on industry liability issues. Legislative protections rarely keep pace with technological advances. In the case of V2V, it is critical that Congress define and draw limits on the liability of individual motorists before V2V communications become commonplace. The research report notes that the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration – Consortium has identified key liability issues, repeated below for emphasis. These are indeed critical issues that must be addressed before widespread adaptation of V2V technology:

  • Whether and, if so, how V2V warning applications increase the risk of liability for OEMs, operators, and drivers;
  • The need for Congress to put in place one or more legal mechanisms for distributing risk among OEMs, operators, drivers, and other public and private stakeholders;
  • Whether V2V warning applications will change the way the legal system assesses driver vs. equipment error;
  • Whether owners may be legally accountable for shutting off or failing properly to maintain V2V warning systems; and
  • Whether the human machine interface required for V2V warning systems will increase driver distraction in a way that will affect legal liability 

Subsection j – Preliminary Benefits Estimates
While V2V communication technology has the potential to add another dimension to vehicle safety, it is viable as a mandate only if the safety benefits outweigh the related costs of implementation. What would the injection of a V2V mandate (and all the issues NHTSA and others raise) do to the trajectory and cost of current manufacturer efforts with vehicle-resident safety technologies? Given time, cost and trade off, would V2V put a damper on broader deployment of vehicle-resident safety technologies to provide narrower and perhaps less certain benefits? 

The automakers have invested in vehicle-resident safety technologies without regard to V2V or V2I capabilities. These technologies provide warnings to drivers in intuitive ways and also have the ability to initiate evasive action if drivers don’t heed the warnings. Can current research determine a definitive cost/benefit assessment when the V2V scenarios are compared to current vehicle-resident safety and communications technologies? 

Implementing V2V is a complex endeavor. The first rule should be to anticipate and avoid unintended consequences as much as possible. 

In Closing
Thank you for considering our comments regarding the implementation of V2V technology on vehicles in the United States. The National Motorists Association remains available to participate in ongoing discussions about this and related topics of major concern to motorists.


NMA E-Newsletter #301: Caution! This is a Completely Hypothetical Exercise that could become Reality.

Posted on October 19th, 2014 in , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board (ARB) recently put on a presentation titled “The Science behind Sustainable Communities Strategies.” The stated goal was to provide “an objective review of the empirical evidence on how effective various transportation and land use strategies are at reducing vehicle miles traveled (and thus greenhouse gas emissions).” A representative from one of the NMA’s allied organizations in California, Robin Cole with the Association of California Car Clubs, attended and provides us with a first-hand account below.

Robin’s comments remind us of how hostile urban planners are toward automobiles as they spread their vision of densely populated urban areas where cars are seen as a threat. Robin notes that the presenter, Dr. Susan Handy with the University of California—Davis, relied mostly on assumptions, not facts, to support her claims. This approach reminds us of the rationale for mandating the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) during the Arab Oil Embargo. The government claimed that lowering highway speed limits would reduce fuel consumption by more than two percent. In reality, the reduction was less than half a percent, yet it took more than 20 years to fully repeal the onerous NMSL.

California recently implemented a “pilot” program for a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax through the enactment of Senate Bill 1077. By limiting where and when people can drive, such schemes will prove critical to the long-term success of sustainable community initiatives. We cannot remain passive as planners and bureaucrats seek to reduce the transportation choices available to citizens; we’ll reach a point where the momentum to do so will be hard to overcome. Here is Robin’s account:

First, I would point out that although the California EPA /ARB building is beautiful, it is not energy efficient or economical. Apparently, California’s environmental officials do not practice what they preach. 

Most of the presentation attendees were master’s or higher degree students in city planning. This means they were soaking this up. The presenter was Dr. Susan Handy with the University of California—Davis and the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. The purpose, she stated, was to reduce vehicle use and emissions. 

Most of the results she cited dealt with reducing vehicle miles traveled and getting people to walk more, and use only bicycles and public transit. She explained her research was done by reading other people’s papers and that there isn’t a lot of research out there. Regarding capacity reduction, there is a lot to study in California but most of the information came from Europe. She had no data from the Oregon VMT tax pilot project. Yet, that program was used to push for passage of SB 1077. She could not say what geographic area, region or even what size of an area she used to come up with her “statistics.”   

She did not include socio-economic information in the study either. Yet the seminar was called “The Science behind Sustainable Community Strategies.” The “Regional Travel Demand Forecasting Module” was based on assumptions, per Dr. Handy. Several pages had charts of “empirical data” but underneath was the following statement: Caution! This is a completely hypothetical exercise. 

The bottom-line goal of all of this is to get people out of their vehicles by making it more expensive to drive (gas, parking, tolls, etc.) and by getting people to live near where they work, play, shop, etc. 

The scary part is that while you’re listening to the presentation, at first it sounds attractive. Things would be convenient and cost less. I guess they did not do much research on the communities they are describing. I guess I was the only one in the room who remembered from history classes those towns which existed in the 1920s, where the steel mill or the mining company owned the town. Everyone worked at the same place, walked to work, had the company grocery and other stores, company medical providers and hospital or clinics. Anything a person earned went back to the company. So does a sustainable community mean being a “company man or woman?” Are these planners proposing socialized communities under the guise of air quality? 

And like SMOG the figures are all made up and created without science. There are no actual figures based on anything actually measured or measureable. 

This should scare everyone.


NMA Missouri Alert: Vote YES on St. Charles County Camera Measure

Posted on October 15th, 2014 in , , | Comments Off

On November 4th, all St. Charles County voters will have the opportunity to decide the fate of red-light cameras in the county. If Proposition Red Light Camera is passed by more than 50 percent, use of these devices will be prohibited in both the municipalities and unincorporated parts of the county. The NMA is firmly against the use of all ticket cameras and had endorsed this ballot initiative.

If you live in St. Charles County, vote YES on November 4th. If you have friends or family who live in St. Charles County, please encourage them to voteYES to get rid of the red-light cameras. Visithttp://redlightcameraban.com for more on this measure.


NMA E-Newsletter #300: “It Only Takes One …”

Posted on October 12th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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We all expect a certain level of hypocrisy in politics, but some examples are just so flagrant, we can’t ignore them. Such is the case of Sara Shaw, a city commissioner in Kissimmee, Florida.

In August, a Florida Highway Patrol officer stopped Shaw on the Florida Turnpike for driving in excess of 100 mph in a city-owned vehicle. (Watch the dashcam video here.) Shaw took a defiant tone throughout the encounter and later said the officer’s account of the stop was wrong. Court records show that the commissioner is no stranger to the red and blue flashers (more on this in a minute). The irony is that at the time of the stop, Shaw was on her way to meet with the Florida League of Cities (FLC) to discuss the virtues of red-light cameras.

Seems Shaw has gained a reputation as a red-light camera crusader. In March, she testified before the Florida Senate Transportation Committee, along with the FLC, in favor of red-light cameras. (Watch the video here. Her testimony starts at the 106: 25 mark.) During her testimony, Shaw claimed red-light cameras had reduced traffic accidents in Kissimmee. She then explained how she had been hit by a red-light runner and therefore considers red-light runners criminals. She also blamed “habitual offenders” for most intersection accidents and said “it only takes one ticket in the mail” to correct the behavior.

Funny Ms. Shaw should point the finger at habitual offenders, given her own substantial experience with the traffic justice system.

At the time she testified in March, Shaw was under license suspension for an unpaid speeding ticket, according to Orange County court records*. This was her fourth license suspension for failure to pay her traffic fines. Since 2002, Shaw has accumulated a total of three speeding tickets, two tickets for failure to obey a traffic control device (such as a red light), one ticket for running a stop sign and one ticket for failure to yield.

Shaw’s license was reinstated in July, shortly before her latest brush with the FHP. She failed to appear for that ticket, claiming she never received notice of her arraignment date. However, the trooper told her the date during the stop and wrote it on her ticket. According to court records, this was the second time Shaw has failed to appear for a court proceeding. Court records also show that Shaw has twice taken the court-approved traffic safety class to mitigate the points on her driving record.

It seems that multiple tickets and multiple traffic safety classes have had little impact on Ms. Shaw’s behavior behind the wheel. If only one of those tickets had come from a camera—remember, “it only takes one”—perhaps she would have learned her lesson.

One final note. Shaw’s March legislative testimony prompted a Florida red-light camera activist to ask the City of Kissimmee for records regarding the number of red-light violation crashes before and after the installation of red-light cameras. Over the course of four months, the city was unable to produce accurate information due to a problem with the method it used to submit data to the state as well as a claim that the backup data could not be recovered.

 

*Court record information comes from the searchable databases provided by Orange County and Osceola County, Florida.


NMA E-Newsletter #299: When it Comes to Privacy, You Get What’s Coming to You

Posted on October 5th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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The phrase “reasonable expectation of privacy” pops up a lot when discussing issues related to motorists and privacy. But what does it mean, and how does it apply to the daily business of driving?

A reasonable expectation of privacy exists if 1) you have an expectation of privacy in a given situation and 2) your expectation of privacy is one that society as a whole would think is legitimate.

Reasonable expectation of privacy as a legal concept grew out of a case (Katz v. United States) in which federal agents tapped phone calls made from a phone booth (remember those?) without a warrant. Even though the listening device was attached to the exterior of the phone booth and did not intrude on the interior space, the caller still had an expectation that his call would not be overheard since he had closed the door to the phone booth. The court ruled that it was this expectation—not the inside of the phone booth itself—that was protected from government intrusion.

It’s important to note that while the caller had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his phone conversation, he likely did not have one regarding his appearance or his actions inside the phone booth. Thus, the Supreme Court has ruled that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in information you “knowingly expose” to others. For example, you share phone numbers with your phone company when you make a call; you share financial and other personal data with your bank when you deposit a check. By willingly conducting transactions with these entities, so the theory goes, you assume the risk that they may share your data with other parties.

How does this apply to driving? Based on Katz, it has been established that motorists have no reasonable expectation of privacy while driving down the road. This is why the NMA deemphasizes the privacy objections related to ticket cameras because they simply won’t hold up in court.  (Don’t worry, we have plenty of other objections we can make.)

With regard to the growing use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs), the courts have ruled that license plate numbers are not protected information under the Fourth Amendment and can be subject to random computer checks without probable cause or heightened suspicion. In United States v. Ellison, a federal appellate court ruled “that a motorist has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the information contained on his license plate under the Fourth Amendment.”

The court continued:

No argument can be made that a motorist seeks to keep the information on his license plate private. The very purpose of a license plate number, like that of a Vehicle Identification Number, is to provide identifying information to law enforcement officials and others. [Because of the important role played by the license plate in the pervasive governmental regulation of the automobile and the efforts by the federal government to ensure that the license plate is placed in plain view,] a motorist can have no reasonable expectation of privacy in the information contained on it.

Privacy advocates acknowledge the “in plain view” aspects of displaying and reading a license plate number but point out that the real ALPR privacy concerns come from how—and how long—the information is stored, who has access to it, and how it is used and shared. The NMA has commented extensively on ALPRs and on what can be done to protect motorists from the potential abuses they engender.

Note that you do have a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning the interior of your vehicle, and police can only search your vehicle under certain circumstances. Read more about vehicle searches here and here. Needless to say, never willingly consent to a search of your vehicle.

It’s clear that our actual level of privacy is linked to our expectation of privacy. If society’s expectation of privacy is lowered then we as a society will have less of it. Take, for example this U.S. Supreme Court opinion from another motorist privacy case, United States v. Jones:

…the use of longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy. For such offenses, society’s expectation has been that law enforcement agents and others would not—and indeed, in the main, simply could not—secretly monitor and catalog every single movement of an individual’s car for a very long period.

But the reality is that government agents and others can secretly track our movements, along with many of our other daily activities. The result is the continuous lowering of our expectation of privacy in more areas of our lives. Once that expectation is gone, our privacy will be as well.


NMA California Alert: Governor Vetoes Anti-Motorist Bills

Posted on October 1st, 2014 in , , | Comments Off

Gov. Brown has vetoed a series of anti-motorist bills that were opposed by the NMA and its coalition partners in California. Here’s a brief rundown of the vetoed bills:

  • Assembly Bill 2398—Would have imposed added penalties for injuring “vulnerable road users” such as pedestrians and bicyclists.  Only protected non-motorized road users.
  • Assembly Bill 1646—Would have added a point for cell phone violations.
  • Assembly Bill 1532—Would have imposed massive new penalties on passengers when the vehicle they are riding in does not stop as required when involved in a collision.
  • Senate Bill 1151—Would have enhanced penalties for numerous infractions and misdemeanors committed in school zones.

You can learn more about these bills from our previous legislative alert here.
 
Thanks to all California members who contact Gov. Brown and urged him to take a more reasonable stance on motorists’ issues.


NMA E-Newsletter #298: Time to Raise Motorists’ Issues with Elected Officials

Posted on September 28th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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For better or worse, election season is upon us. That means it’s the perfect time to find out where your elected officials stand on a variety of motorists’ rights issues.

Your local, state and federal representatives all have an obligation to respond to any reasonable question you pose. Pick the issues important to you and then ask the appropriate elected officials where they stand. From a motorists perspective you might ask these kinds of questions:

Local Officials

  • What is your position on raising the speed limit on XYZ Boulevard to XX mph?
  • Do you support placing red-light or speed-cameras in our community?
  • What is your opinion on police roadblocks?
  • What is your position on local police using automated license plate readers?

State Officials

  • What is your position on raising the maximum state speed limit to XX mph?
  • Would you support legalizing/outlawing red-light or speed cameras?
  • What is your position on turning existing interstate highways into toll roads?
  • Would you support a plan to tax motorists based on the miles they travel?
  • Would you support legislation prohibiting the use of police ticket quotas including for performance evaluations?

National Officials

  • What is your position on turning existing interstate highways into toll roads?
  • Would you vote to increase the gas tax if the money were devoted solely to building and maintaining highways?
  • Would you support a plan to tax motorists based on the miles they travel?
  • Would you support federal privacy protections for data captured by automated license plate readers?

These are just a few examples. Come up with your own questions based on what’s going on in your community and your personal interests.  Approach your representatives in a polite, neutral, non-leading way. You want the closest thing you can get to an honest answer—not the answer they think you want to hear—and you don’t want to come off as confrontational.

Ask the same questions of all candidates for the same office. If you don’t receive a response, the recipient may be trying to leave you in the dark hoping you may still vote for him or her if the other candidates don’t respond in the way you prefer. Think carefully before voting for a candidate who employs this tactic.

The issues that concern us, as motorists, are often considered to be “too minor” to publicly debate or to offer a set of positions. A thoughtful email or even a letter sent through the U.S. Postal Service is a good way to get the answers you seek. A letter may be the most effective since it will stand out among the constant stream of digital data everyone is barraged with these days.

Don’t be surprised if candidates don’t have a strong opinion on the issue you raise. They simply may not have thought about it or may not be well enough informed about it. Take the opportunity to educate them about the issue and the impact it has on you and on other motorists.

If reaching out to your representatives seems like a daunting task, the NMA has published a number of “how to” newsletters over the years linked below. Also review the “Issues” pages at www.motorists.org for the facts and figures you’ll need to make your case.

http://alerts.motorists.org/nma-e-newsletter-201-the-latest-old-fashioned/

http://alerts.motorists.org/nma-e-newsletter-238-an-easy-way-to-speak-up/

http://alerts.motorists.org/nma-e-newsletter-215-connecting-with-lawmaker/

http://alerts.motorists.org/nma-e-newsletter-111-communicating-with-congr/


NMA E-Newsletter #297: V2V—Technology Marches Forward

Posted on September 21st, 2014 in , , , , , , | Comments Off

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a vision for vehicle-to-vehicle communications and the role the technology will play in highway safety. In addition to issuing a lengthy report on the topic last month
(DOT HS 812 014, Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications: Readiness of V2V Technology for Application), the federal agency is currently soliciting public comments about its proposal to create a national standard that would require V2V communications capability on all passenger cars and light trucks in the near future. The goal is to use V2V technology as the basis for a new platform of vehicle-based safety applications such as intersection movement assist and left turn assist that could significantly reduce the number of crashes.

At the heart of V2V technology is a dedicated short-range communications capability, one that would send a basic safety message between vehicles to warn drivers of an impending collision or even take automated action such as applying the brakes if the driver doesn’t respond quickly enough. The message would include information such as vehicle speed, GPS position, vehicle heading and a verifying message ID. NHTSA estimates that V2V hardware will cost approximately $350 per vehicle in 2020.

We will be reviewing NHTSA’s request for comments about development of a federal motor vehicle safety standard for V2V communications and urge those of you interested in this technology to do the same. The deadline for feedback to NHTSA through the advance notice of proposed rulemaking process is October 20, 2014. 

The agency will also issue a Privacy Impact Assessment in the coming months with more detail on potential privacy risks. That assessment will come with its own request for public comments, an area we surely will be weighing in on as discussions about the implementation of V2V advance. 

Stay tuned to the NMA e-newsletter and blog for more information as it develops. Improvements in vehicular safety designs and applications are welcomed as long as drivers’ rights aren’t encroached upon or put at further risk.


NMA California Alert: Speak out on Anti-Motorist Bills

Posted on September 19th, 2014 in , , , , , | Comments Off

Several bills hostile toward motorists have been passed by the California State Legislature and are awaiting action by the governor.
 
Assembly Bill 1646 would add a violation point for texting or using a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving.
 
Senate Bill 1151 would enhance penalties for numerous infractions and misdemeanors committed in school zones.
 
Assembly Bill 2398 would establish penalties for a driver convicted of causing bodily injury or great bodily injury to a “vulnerable road user,” defined as a pedestrian, a person on horseback, a person operating a bicycle, in-line skates, roller skates, a scooter, or a skateboard, and a person operating or using a farm tractor.
 
We encourage you to contact the governor’s office to ask him to veto these measures. To help with that, we have posted several letters online which you can access and send to the governor. Find the letters here. Consider personalizing each letter with your own thoughts and perspectives. 
 
You can also call or email Gov. Brown’s office using the contact information below.
 
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
 
Phone: (916) 445-2841 
Fax: (916) 558-3160
 
Use the form found here for email.


NMA E-Newsletter #296: Politicizing the BAC Debate Thwarts Finding Real Solutions

Posted on September 14th, 2014 in , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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By a Massachusetts NMA Member

I’ve been impressed with NMA’s diligence for years now, but I think you might need to take a closer look at slide three of the presentation at http://www.alcoholstats.com/uploads/DrunkDrivingStatistics.pdf before jumping into the politicized waters surrounding DUI and the BAC threshold.

If I’m reading the chart correctly, in 2010 the total number of fatal crashes was 37,023. Of these, 20,838 did not indicate any alcohol consumption by any participant, This means that about 44 percent of the fatal crashes involved alcohol. As I’m sure you realize, 44 percent is the only number that your opponents will use to promote lowering the DUI threshold to .05 percent as a “safety” issue, even when they know perfectly well that the actual resultant change will be essentially nil (i.e., less than 5 percent, which qualifies as statistical noise). At this point the emotionally charged “… if even one child (or life) could be saved …” argument in favor of dramatically tighter BAC restrictions kicks in, precisely as it has with school bus cameras.

It’s interesting that in Russia the BAC threshold for “drunk” driving is .02 percent, which either may be supporting claims that Russia has more drunk drivers than any other nation or an observation that there are simply more people being arrested for drunken driving in Russia than anywhere else—both claims due primarily to a very low BAC threshold. In either case, the Russian government controls both enforcement and the reported stats. The European trend seems to be toward .05 percent, which does not appear to be supported by any stats but clearly has political “curb appeal” for voters who have no real control over their multiple layers of government.

The chart also has a couple of odd-looking features which, if accurate reflections of the truth, deserve closer examination. For example, the fatality rate (1,718) for .01-.07 BAC is about 2.45 times that for BAC .08-.09 (702). Because it is consistent for every year since 1982, we might conclude that a BAC of .08-.09 is more than twice as safe as a BAC of .01-.07, which is contrary to the claim that a higher BAC is always worse. Is it or not?

And the rate for BAC .15-.19 is about 170 percent the rate for BAC .20 and up. My personal guess on this point is that there are very few people who can actually find their car, get behind the wheel, and fit the key into the ignition switch with a BAC over .20. I suspect most people don’t get past finding the car, but if they do, they often pass out at the wheel. In any event, the chart suggests that a BAC of .10 or higher is generally bad news, but lower BAC percentages (.01-.10) are possibly in the realm of statistical “noise” if we consider only the potential for fatalities.

Now, one of the long-standing problems with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics is that they consider only fatalities. This, for example, prompted the Massachusetts government to proudly declare (as front-page news in The Boston Globe several years ago) that Massachusetts is actually, despite insane insurance premiums and vast numbers of crashes, the safest state in the nation for drivers.

This absurd claim was based on the number of NHTSA-reported fatalities on U.S. Highway 3 in Boston (aka the infamous Southeast Expressway) occurring on Sunday mornings and supported by the heartening observation that, unlike in Wyoming, crashes in or near Boston usually get a rapid response, which means that driving in or near Boston (counting only Sunday mornings on one 20-mile stretch of highway)—and therefore Massachusetts as a whole (with the second-highest population density in the nation and roughly 5/6 of the state’s population within 35 miles of Boston)—is “safer” than driving in Wyoming (lowest population density in the nation) even though it is manifestly more dangerous than in the overwhelming majority of states.

Basically, the problem lurking in the NHTSA stats is that the real story about BAC can’t be accurately told because the focus is solely on the worst possible outcome. This invites politicizing a topic that deserves thoughtful examination and pragmatic solutions. I don’t see much evidence of either.

NMA President Gary Biller responds:

Thank you for a very thoughtful analysis of DUI statistics and how they are used to ostracize anyone who dares advocate for reasonable laws and enforcement practices. It is so politically incorrect to challenge the trend toward criminalizing alcohol use again—hey, prohibition worked so well the first time around — that few if any of our state and national legislators have the courage to question the moral and economic consequences of a continued lowering of the legal (but not physiological) limit of impaired driving.

I derive some hope from the reaction to my op-ed for the November 2013 issue of  The Costco Connection. That magazine has a subscriber base of five million so it provided plenty of exposure to the informed debate between me and a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, an organization that prompted the discussion by calling for a lowering of the DUI limit from 0.08 BAC—observed by all states—to 0.05. The following month, The Costco Connection published the results of an associated reader poll that asked, “Should the DUI limit be lowered?” Seventy-two percent said no, while 28 percent wanted tighter regulations. Now if we can get those 72 percent to speak up when it counts!

One other observation about the NHTSA statistics that you dissected very effectively: The fatalities are based on “highest driver BAC in the crash.” That doesn’t mean that the driver with the BAC (or alcohol for that matter) caused the accident. DUI information and statistics are routinely presented in such a way that, as you so aptly stated, it leads to “politicizing a topic that deserves thoughtful examination and pragmatic solutions.”





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