Fraud by the NHTSA
"Alcohol is still a cause of staggering devastation. It kills 100,000 Americans a year--not only from disease but also from accidents. In 1996, 41% of all U.S. traffic fatalities were alcohol related. It causes huge economic losses and untold suffering. Why, then, do the Bud frogs get to play the Super Bowl while Joe Camel goes the way of the Marlboro Man?"
This statement by Time Magazine is a fraudulent statement, and it was made possible only by an agency of the United States government--the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA.
"Alcohol involved" means that SOMEBODY involved in the accident had some trace amount of alcohol in their blood stream, whereas "alcohol related" means that alcohol is listed as a CAUSE of the accident. A quick review of the FARS data base at http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/www/query.html will illustrate to you that there were 100,358 American drivers involved in fatal accidents in 1999 and that 11,554 or 11.5% of them were "alcohol involved". Of those who were "alcohol involved", 32% or 3,697 were not drivers (they were pedestrians, passengers, etc.), and 37% or 4,275 were drivers who did not have a bac greater than .10%.
This leaves 38% or 4,391 of all of those involved in fatal accidents who were drivers with a bac > .10%, which is 4.3% of all of those in fatal accidents, which is consistent with police reports which show that 4% of ALL traffic accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, are "alcohol-involved".
How, then, was NHTSA able to report that "38% of total traffic fatalities for the year ... are alcohol related crashes"? http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ How does the 4.3% figure jump to 38%, a whopping NINE FOLD (9X) increase? Carefully consider the following admission from NHTSA:
This is an admission by NHTSA that they manipulated the data to arrive at their preconceived conclusion that alcohol CAUSES fatal accidents. There is no other way to increase the percent of "alcohol involved" accidents from 8.8% to 38%. In other words, AFTER you presume that "the likelihood that a fatal crash-involved driver or nonoccupant ... was intoxicated (BAC of 0.10 or greater) at the time of the crash", ONLY then can you increase the percent of "alcohol involved" accidents by more than four fold.
THERE'S NO OTHER WAY TO GET THERE. If the police reported alcohol involvement doesn't reveal that more than 4% of these accidents are "alcohol involved", there's NO legitimate way years after the accident for such an assumption to be made. It is the worse kind of guess work based solely on the preconceived cynical hypothesis that Americans are too STUPID to drink and drive responsibly, whereas bureaucrats sitting thousands of miles away in Washington are somehow able to make such personal decisions FOR them.
This is not merely cynical. It is deadly. Because the entire nation wasted so much effort, energy, and dollars fighing the WRONG accident factors, we have an MVFR fifty percent higher than Germany's and three times higher than England's. If the nation had not been distracted by this media disinformation campaign, our rate might have been equivalent to England's last year, which would have resulted in 27,000 fewer traffic fatalities in just that one year alone.
I) FOUR PERCENT OF ALL TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS ARE "ALCOHOL INVOLVED"
Through 1997, the US Statistical Abstract included NHTSA data regarding "Police-reported Traffic Accidents" which consistently showed that only 4% of ALL traffic accidents in the nation were "alcohol involved":
II) MORE THAN NINE PERCENT OF ALL PEOPLE INVOLVED IN FATAL TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS ARE "ALCOHOL INVOLVED"
A search of the FARS data base at http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/www/query.html by the number of people involved in fatal accidents shows that 9,296 or 9.3% of the 100,358 people involved in fatal accidents in 1999 were "alcohol involved".
III) ALMOST TWENTY THREE PERCENT OF ALL FATAL TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS ARE "ALCOHOL INVOLVED"
A search of FARS by accident counts shows that 22.9% of all accidents involve those whose BAC was equal to or greater than 0.10.
1999 Annual Report File
IV) ALMOST THIRTY PERCENT OF ALL FATAL TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS ARE "ALCOHOL INVOLVED"
By including those with a BAC between 0.01 and 0.10, we find that 29.8% have BAC equal to or greater than 0.01
V) FORTY PERCENT OF ALL FATAL TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS ARE "ALCOHOL INVOLVED"
Table 1041 above was dropped in 1998 in favor of "Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents" which shows that the percent of fatal accidents with a BAC greater than 0.01 was 40% http://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/99statab/sec21.pdf
VI) FORTY ONE PERCENT OF ALL FATAL TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS ARE "ALCOHOL INVOLVED"
After this data has passed through all of these stages, almost doubling at each step, who can fault Time Magazine for bumping the figure up a mere one percent http://www.time.com/time/magazine/1997/dom/971006/essay.the_new_prohi.html ?
Which of these figures do you believe is accurate? Why?
What evidence is there that ANY of these figures are accurate when the statistic is arbitrarily bumped up at each stage of the reporting process?
There is no explanation for why there would be ten times as many "alcohol related" fatal accidents then there are "alcohol related" non-fatal accidents. Rounds of debate about this issue have failed to produce even one suggestion for how this could possibly have happened. If it is true that 41% of all fatal accidents are "alcohol related", then it is impossible that only 4% of ALL accidents are "alcohol involved". By all logic, the percentage of all accidents which are "alcohol involved" should be identical to the percentage of all fatal accidents which are "alcohol involved", unless a factor can be identified to explain the discrepancy.
Even ignoring the percent of drivers who drive with a BAC greater than 0.01, it is irrational to presume that drinking alcohol increases the likelihood of having a traffic accident when TWENTY FOUR TIMES (24X) as many accidents are not at all "alcohol involved". For NHTSA to presume that reducing alcohol related accidents would contribute to a reduction in the traffic accident rate is dangerous, and criminal. It is dangerous because it causes tremendous resources to be misdirected, and it is criminal because this misdirection of resources prevented the MVFR from being decreased at the same rate that it DID decrease in countries like Germany, Japan, and Italy. It is intentionally misleading for NHTSA to report that "Alcohol-related fatalities decreased by 7,452" while ignoring that non-alcohol-related fatalities increased by 3,029. It is true that this is a net reduction of 4,423 traffic fatalities, but there is no statistical evidence whatsoever that this was because of any reduction in drinking and driving. Those who advocate seat belts claim that they saved 10,750 lives with seat belt laws. Those who advocate motorcycle helmet laws claim that they saved 486 lives. NHTSA claims that minimum age drinking laws saved 846 lives. Advocates of air bags claim that they saved 8,021 lives. This is a grand total of 20,103 lives which all of the advocates claim that they have saved, which is 4.5 times as many lives as were actually saved. If we add the 7,452 lives which NHTSA claims were saved with drinking and driving laws, then the claims by advocates exceeds the actual figure by 6.2 times.
If we accept NHTSA data at face value, without questioning their methods and motives, then the non-drinking driver has gotten dramatically more dangerous. Where only 22,749 fatal accidents in 1987 were not alcohol involved, 25,778 of them were not alcohol involved in 1997, which is a 9.5% increase. These "unexpected consequences" are the risk of manipulating data so carelessly. The odds of one group of drivers changing its driving habits by 9.5% in only 10 years are small to non-existent. The only thing that could possibly have changed is the method used to "estimate" the percent of accidents which were alcohol involved, and the only reason anyone would change this is to attempt to make the agency look good to the public.
The DWI campaign is costly. The average cost of each of the 1.6 million DWI arrests each year is $10,000, which makes this a $16 billion cottage industry for lawyers. The cost to put the 58,700 Americans behind bars for DWI offenses alone, including the loss to economic productivity of those involved, increased welfare and social security costs, employee overhead and retirement benefits, etc., is another $11.8 billion, for a total of $27.8 billion. Even IF we accepted NHTSA's claim in totality, that this program saved a TOTAL of 7,452 lives, the cost per life saved is $3.7 million. Total cancer research in the nation is less than $200 per year per life lost to cancer, which would make this DWI campaign 18,500 times as costly as cancer research. IF we assumed that the 4,423 lives which were saved due to the reduction in the fatality rate is due 100% to this DWI campaign, then the cost per life saved is $6.3 million, which is 31,500 times as costly per life as cancer research. If we equally divided the 4,423 lives saved between DWI laws, minimum age drinking laws, seat belt laws, air bag laws, and motorcycle helmet laws, then the DWI campaign saved 885 lives and the cost per life saved is $31.4 million, which is 157,000 times as costly as cancer research. If this DWI campaign saved no lives, which is the most likely scenario, then the campaign wastes $27.8 billion of taxpayers' money for NOTHING.