Sunday, September 16, 2007

A MADD Agenda

The once honorable organization known as MADD (Mothers against drunk driving) has lost sight of the original goal it set out to achieve. The Anti drunk driving organization that the American people have come to know as MADD is gone; it is now an organization that will only be satisfied with one outcome: prohibition. Though MADD adamantly denies the fact that they are a neo prohibitionist group the evidence clearly shows that they will use any tactics found essential to create public sympathy in order to achieve their goal of criminalizing the consumption of any amount of alcohol.
When the statistics that MADD reports are researched by another party the numbers are often proven to be inflated or false. According to an article published at (2007):
In a three-page 1998 report, sociologist and MADD national board member Ralph Hingson claimed that lowering the nationwide drunk-driving arrest threshold from .10% to 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) would save 500 lives a year (¶14).
Ralph Hingson conducted his survey with prejudice, choosing which states to compare in the survey. Hingson claimed he used neighbouring states to conduct his research. However, when a renowned traffic research scientist, Dr Robert Scopatz looked at the study, it revealed some irregularities in the definition of “neighbouring states”. Scopatz found that Hingons compared California, a .08% Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) state to Texas a .08% BAC state. If Hingon had compared actual neighbouring states such as Arizona, which is a .08% state, to California the study would have shown that there were no life saving qualities for lowering the BAC from .10% to.08% (Pena, n.d.). “Despite the challenges introduced by reality, MADD still manages to cite studies claiming that the .08% BAC law saves lives” (Pena, n.d., p 3).
It is apparent that the general public confuses the term alcohol-related with drunken driving and if the representatives of MADD are not the cause of this confusion they undoubtedly capitalize on it. The President of MADD, while addressing the Senate Committee on Appropriations, cited figures from NHTSA’s study claiming “Alcohol-involved [or alcohol-related] crashes accounted for 21 percent of nonfatal injury crash costs, and an overwhelming 46 percent of all fatal injury crash costs. In order to reverse this trend, the nation cannot maintain the status quo and expect a different result.” (Hamilton, 2003) However, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) own definition the term, alcohol-related, is vague and extremely inaccurate:
NHTSA defines a fatal crash as alcohol-related or alcohol-involved if either a driver Or A nonmotorist (usually a pedestrian) had a measurable or estimated Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.01 Grams Per Deciliter (g/dl) or above. NHTSA defines a nonfatal crash as alcohol-related or alcohol-involved if police indicate on the police accident report that there is evidence of alcohol present. The code does not necessarily mean that a driver or nonoccupant was tested for alcohol.
(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2005)
Without further explanation of NHTSA’s definition it is nearly impossible to perceive the numbers to be accurate. Another disclaimer made public by NHTSA is “NHTSA estimates alcohol involvement when alcohol test results are unknown.” (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2005) If NHTSA estimates alcohol involvement when the results of an alcohol test are unknown than would that not make everyone subject to the estimation calculation?
Regardless of the obvious discrepancies found in the studies conducted by NHTSA the numbers have hardly reduced over the most recent three year statistics available. According to NHSTA’s own studies the alcohol-related deaths for 2003 were 40% of the entire motor vehicle fatal accidents, while at first glance this appears to be way too high, taking a further look at the numbers one can deduct that this is grossly exaggerated. For the year 2003 60% percent of the reported 31% of deaths in fatal motor vehicle accidents were reported to have a party involved with a BAC of 0.00% (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2005). 0.00% is not drunk at all, yet the accidents are reported to have alcohol involved. As shown in Figure 1, removing the unsubstantiated 60% from the overall 40% gives us a much less shocking percentage of 24% and one still has to keep in mind that an undeterminable amount of these percentages can involve anyone other than the driver using the term “alcohol-related” as defined by NHTSA.
The alcohol-related accident statistics remain almost identical through the years 2004 and 2005 while the alcohol-related fatalities reportedly increased by 1% in 2004 and 2005 the percentage of alcohol-related fatalities with a party having a BAC level of 0.00% also increased by 1%. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2005). This should conclude that the antics performed by MADD and the increased punishments for anyone who may have taken a drink and decided to drive are essentially ineffective. Furthermore, the reported percentage of persons involved in fatal alcohol-related accidents with BAC levels between .01% and .07% is 5% and 6%. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2005) Undoubtedly this is a broad scale; but nevertheless if these numbers are even remotely accurate than why is MADD pursuing an even lower BAC rate? While some may consider any number of motor vehicle deaths related to alcohol too high, society has to consider the risks of persecuting the wrong people for the crime.
While addressing the Senate Committee on Appropriations the National President of MADD, Wendy J. Hamilton, cites DOT and NHTSA statistics that includes all deaths that occurred on American highways between 2001 and 2002:
According to DOT, motor vehicle crashes are responsible for 95 percent of transportation sector deaths and 99 percent of all transportation-related injuries within the United States as well as the leading cause of death for people ages 4 through 33. In 2002, an estimated 42,850 people died on the nation’s highways, up from 42,116 in 2001.
(Hamilton, 2003)
The argument has no bearing on the alcohol-related accidents excluding the fact that somewhere in the statistics that she cites are the inaccurate statistics of alcohol-related motor-vehicle deaths. Yet, it is another example of the tactics used by MADD to use any means necessary to conjure up sympathy and public outrage to further their agenda. Considering the President of MADD is addressing the Senate Committee on Appropriations would it not be prudent to conclude that the statistics that she is citing have a direct association with the agenda that MADD is promoting? Instead of citing the statistics on Alcohol-related injuries and deaths the President of MADD chooses to cite the entire death toll. Furthermore, the argument that motor vehicles are responsible for 95% of all transportation sector deaths and 99% of all transportation related deaths is frivolous. Motor vehicles are the transportation sector; and how can anything but motor-vehicles be the cause of injuries in transportation-related injuries?
The use of bias and confusing statistics are only one device used in the anti alcohol movement made by MADD. One is left to wonder why an organization such as MADD, that claims to be an advocate against drunk-driving, would allow high-ranking officials to make statements that clearly condemn the consumption of any amount of alcohol. “In Arlington, Texas MADD opposed any beer drinking by golfers at a public course ‘I’ve seen how alcohol can destroy lives,’ said a MADD spokesman. ‘Life is risky enough on its own’” (Pena, n.d., p 9). This statement goes well-beyond golfers drinking publicly at a course and a natural reaction would be to wonder why an anti drunk driving organization gets involved in the situation.
MADD uses bias research to create public sympathy to increase the laws that punish not only the habitual drunk drivers but the social drinker as well. Criminalizing a good parent that has a drink socially is unjust but appears to be another issue that MADD intends to pursue. The use of the word “any” is a subtle reminder that MADD has contempt for the consumption of alcohol beverages in any form as this quote from a MADD representative posted on (n.d.) reveals “‘Any drinking before driving,’ MADD insisted, ‘should result in penalties that should include, but are not limited to – incarceration, change of primary custody, or termination of parental rights’” (¶1). Some drinking before driving is completely legal and people who fall within the guidelines of the law should undoubtedly be afforded the right to do so without consequence. Yet MADD continuously pursues all drinking as criminal. The President of MADD has been quoted as saying “‘lowering the legal arrest standard will be a deterrent for light drinkers as well as heavy’”(Pena, n.d., p.1) This statement essentially says that MADD would like to deter all alcohol consumption making criminals out of anyone who drinks it.
MADD associates the consumption of alcohol with the use of illegal drugs. An indication of the association between illegal drugs and legal alcohol that MADD tries to make is the fact that MADD has petitioned the Whitehouse aggressively to allocate at least 50% of the illegal drug education budget to educate the public about the dangers of underage alcohol consumption. While the Whitehouse and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America opposed this idea for what appears to be good reasons “’we share a concern about the terribly serious problem of underage alcohol use,’' Mr. McCaffrey said in a statement last week. `’However, it would be a serious mistake to simply add alcohol messages. The effectiveness of paid alcohol ads without new funds, staff and research would only hamper the effectiveness of our campaign’.'' (Teinowitz, 1999) The response was not openly received by MADD President Karolyn Nunnallee who even “accuse[d] the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the White House drug czar of being part of a “twisted alliance” with alcoholic beverage groups to keep anti-alcohol ads off TV.” (Teinowitz, 1999) When did the subject change from educating the public about the dangers of underage drinking to anti-alcohol campaigns? If MADD is an organization with only the good intentions of lowering the drunken driving deaths then why are they pursuing anti-alcohol campaigns? In addition to the accusations made by Karolyn Nunnallee showing MADD’s less then humble response to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America for not associating Alcohol with drugs, later that year MADD went on to fund:
A 1999 MADD television spot [that] shows heroin being boiled in a spoon and sucked into a syringe while the voice-over intones that alcohol kills more people under [the age of] 21 than all illegal drugs combined. Message: just as there is no safe amount of heroin or crack cocaine there is no safe [amount of] drinking [alcohol]
(Pena, n.d. p 9).
The inflated statistics and controversial research used by MADD shows MADD has an agenda that reaches further then preventing deaths from drunk driving. Continuing on the pursuit of prohibition MADD tries to have the government allocate funds to support an anti-alcohol campaign and is less than humble when a decision is made that does not coincide with their objective. Representatives of MADD publicly condemn all consumption of alcohol, and have no regard for the people who drink it within the guidelines of the laws. The adverse effects on parents or social drinkers due to the laws that are invoked by the rallying of the organization MADD are detrimental and are far from the original goal of MADD which was to prevent deaths from drunken driving accidents. MADD continues to adamantly deny the notion that they are a neo prohibitionist group. However, the evidence clearly indicates that they will use any tactics found essential to create public sympathy in order to achieve their goal of criminalizing the consumption of any amount of alcohol.


Anonymous said...

Very provacative and enlightening post. i always thought they went a bit nutty with the propaganda - but you say it, pretty much in a nutshett. They use extremes to try to get the point across -- but their post is heinously biased and no longer based in either fact or the well being of the masses. It is a sad thing when anyone dies in a drunken driving accident...but it is sad when anyone dies from ANYTHING...i digress. They are sounding like they will probably go militant like those fucking anti-smoking ads that make me want to blow a hole through my television.
Moderation..not prohibition.
So...i take it you're choosing excellent subject matter for your on-going persuasive writing course??
If you're around later, send me an email?

9/18/2007 7:10 PM  
Anonymous said...

oh man....sorry for the errors...
1) should say "nutshell"
2) fourth line should say "point" not "post"

9/18/2007 7:12 PM  
The Cowardly Midget said...

This is actually a different class... and thats a research paper... I wouldn't put one teacher through both of these papers... lol

9/18/2007 8:10 PM  

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