Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: The Truth About HB19 Alaska's Ignition Interlock Bill (and the folks who want to stop it) Part 1

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Truth About HB19 Alaska's Ignition Interlock Bill (and the folks who want to stop it) Part 1

The Compass Piece for the April 3rd edition of The Anchorage Daily News was titled "DUI proposal's restrictive nature alarming." The piece played fast-and-loose with the truth through complete lack of statistical back-up, generalized assertions and future-tripping insinuation.

HERE is the Sponsor Statement for HB19 from Rep. Kevin Meyer which I'll quote below:
“An Act relating to ignition interlock devices; to limited driver's license privileges; and to ignition interlock limited driver's license privileges.”
Currently, a person convicted of driving under the influence has been able to get a limited driver's license from the Division of Motor Vehicles so that they can continue to drive and to earn a living. The limitation currently placed on a license focuses primarily on where a person can drive. House Bill 19 shifts the emphasis from where a person can drive to how a person can drive by changing the type of limited license available to an offender from the traditional limited license to an ignition interlock limited license.

OK - so there is already a provision for folks to get a limited license after a DUI conviction. The provision at this time, however, is to limit WHERE they can drive. The new Bill would actually allow them to drive anywhere, as long as they had an Ignition Interlock on their car and their Blood Alcohol Count (BAC) was under the pre-set level. Dang...I would think that would make those folks who have just made that one, stupid mistake happy.

Of course, practicing alcoholics would be pissed...

And speaking of that, let's take a look at the Compass piece written by Sarah Longwell, "the managing director of the American Beverage Institute in Washington, D.C., an association of restaurants committed to the responsible serving of adult beverages":
Alaska fines a driver speeding 5 mph over the limit $40. A driver caught speeding 20 mph over can owe more than $240.

The rest of the state's traffic offenses follow the same theme: The severity of the crime determines the severity of the punishment. But a bill before the state Legislature aims to change that.

As with speeders, there's a big difference between a person driving after two drinks and a drunk who drives after 10. However, proposed legislation would force Alaska judges to ignore that difference.

NO. Alaska already has graduated punishments depending on the number of previous violations and the severity of the present one. These adjusted punishments are reflected in AS 28.35.030 which HB19 refers to. HB19 merely adds the TEMPORARY Ignition Interlock requirement on to those punishments.

More of the Compass Piece:
These devices were originally developed for chronic drunk drivers with extreme alcohol levels. Already, many courts in Alaska and across the nation successfully prescribe interlocks to keep alcohol abusers and repeat offenders off our roads. But now anti-alcohol activists are looking for a new target.

Proponents of the bill claim the measure will fight the drunken driving problem. National statistics, though, prove that the problem has been reduced to a few individuals who severely abuse alcohol and still choose to drive. Mandating interlocks for first offenders doesn't focus on those dangerous criminals.

NO. These were created to enhance the effectiveness of already existing DUI laws on the books. A repeat DUI offender has to get his/her first one before he/she can become a repeat offender. Since the courts aren't psychic, the only fair way is to establish their use across the board as part of DUI rehabilitation.

And seriously, I really don't get the issue. It allows the "behaving" person more freedom behind the wheel, while keeping the misbehaving person off the road and out of jail!

Still more:
With an average BAC of .19 percent--more than double the legal limit -- the average drunken driver in a fatal crash has slurred speech, uncoordinated movements and delayed reactions. That's the scenario many people imagine when we hear about drunken driving. In reality, it only takes one drink to get arrested for driving under the influence in many states. Even though all 50 states list 0.08 BAC as the legal limit, many law enforcement agencies have adopted the notion favored by the Ohio State Highway Patrol: "There is no absolute 'legal limit' except 'zero.'"

There is so much "truthiness" and word-parsing oozing out of that section I have to plug my nose to cover the stench.

Let's look at their reference to a BAC of .19. What she doesn't mention is that, based on a review of 109 studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving skills can be SIGNIFICANTLY EFFECTED at BACs of .04, .05 and the impairment climbs exponentially every .01 the BAC increases. Also, she equates this number with the "average drunken driver in a fatal crash." According to 2005 Data (the latest they had available), the National Center for Statistics and Analysis states that 59% of all alcohol-related traffic fatalities are the result of a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher.

Then there's her theory that "it only it only takes one drink to get arrested for driving under the influence in many states." As of today, all 50 states (due to threat of restricted Highway funds) have a legal BAC limit of .08. (And yes, that's true in Ohio too, even if they encourage folks not to drink at all) The least amount of alcohol it would require to achieve that level (according to BAC charts) would be for a woman 120 lbs or less to have 2 drinks within 40 minutes (BAC goes down by .01 every 40 min after if nothing else is consumed). While a 80 lb woman could chug a martini, immediately get behind the wheel of a car, get pulled over and MAYBE have a BAC of .08, that whole scenario (beginning with the 80 lb woman) is unlikely.

Back to the article for the last time:
It's important to remember that drivers who speed or talk on their phones are more likely to crash than those who have 0.08 BAC. Though these reckless behaviors contribute to a growing death toll, Alaska legislators are not clamoring to mandate speed-capping technology for first time speeders.

There are several fallacies at work here but I'll just present the facts.

According to the Alaska State Troopers:
- In 2007 there were 85 traffic-related fatalities, of which 24 were reported as being alcohol related.
- In 2007 there were 78 fatal crashes, of which 28% were alcohol related.

Notice these deal specifically with fatalities and with folks over the BAC .08 limit.

Also according to the Troopers:
In Alaska Driver Inattention is cited in 28% of all traffic-related crashes.

On the surface, that could imply that alcohol was not a factor at all in the other crashes. However, those things aren't tracked if the BAC was not over .08. And most importantly, according to the NHTSA, a review of 18 studies of "Divided Attention Tests" shows that BACs as small as .005 can cause impairment when the driver attempts to "multi-task". So, many drivers cited for inattention could have consumed alcohol at some point during the day and the evidence would be impossible to detect. Since Anchorage's problem with alcohol is well known...

So now we've looked at the (lack of) truth of the Compass piece itself. Tomorrow, we'll explore the identity of Sarah Longwell, who she REALLY works for and why her piece had NO BUSINESS in an area reserved for folks from the Community.

**Edit** I typed this at 4:00 am and accidentally typed Harry Crawford instead of Kevin Meyer for the sponsor statement. It's been corrected.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get your facts straight. The sponsor statement is from Meyer, not Crawford. Duh.

4/06/2008 11:40 AM  
Blogger CelticDiva said...

Corrected - 4:00 am mistake.

4/06/2008 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty big mistake. Maybe you should double check all your posts made in the wee hours... Who knows who else you may have "mistakenly" ragged on...

4/06/2008 12:06 PM  
Blogger CelticDiva said...

Actually, pretty little mistake, since Harry Crawford is a co-sponsor. (Which was in my mind while I was typing) Plus, I had it linked to the correct site which is the only reason you even noticed. God knows, Mr/Ms Anonymous, you couldn't have caught something like that by yourself.

No, I was pretty careful about the data I used for this post, the links I provided and the information I presented - unlike the author of the Compass piece.

Of course, the reason you are griping about the one typo is because I totally slapped down your feeble argument...since you clearly agree with the alcohol lobby shill.

4/06/2008 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I don't agree with this bill or the liquor lobby, which was why I minded seeing the sponsor statement attributed to Harry Crawford instead of Kevin Meyer. If you're going to shred a public official for their legislation, don't you think you should make sure you're quoting the right person? I just thought your "oops" response was a little lame. It's got nothing to do with my views on the bill, which are similar to your own. But thanks for jumping to conclusions. I would expect nothing less.

4/06/2008 1:08 PM  
Blogger CelticDiva said...

Your comments have been extremely hostile...my mistake was on assuming why.

4/06/2008 2:35 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home