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Rethinking Roadway Safety: Do Traffic Laws and DUI Laws Really Keep People Safe?

A fellow DPer posted on this discussion in 2010. At first glance, most may come down hard on the idea of "legalizing" "drunk" driving.

I'd like to open up a serious discussion on the points brought up by Lew Rockwell in this essay titled, Legalize Drunk Driving, Nov 2000.

Clinton has signed a bill passed by Congress that orders the states to adopt new, more onerous drunk-driving standards or face a loss of highway funds. That's right: the old highway extortion trick. Sure enough, states are already working to pass new, tighter laws against Driving Under the Influence, responding as expected to the feds' ransom note.

Now the feds declare that a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent and above is criminal and must be severely punished. The National Restaurant Association is exactly right that this is absurdly low. The overwhelming majority of accidents related to drunk driving involve repeat offenders with blood-alcohol levels twice that high. If a standard of 0.1 doesn't deter them, then a lower one won't either.

But there's a more fundamental point. What precisely is being criminalized? Not bad driving. Not destruction of property. Not the taking of human life or reckless endangerment. The crime is having the wrong substance in your blood. Yet it is possible, in fact, to have this substance in your blood, even while driving, and not commit anything like what has been traditionally called a crime.

What have we done by permitting government to criminalize the content of our blood instead of actions themselves? We have given it power to make the application of the law arbitrary, capricious, and contingent on the judgment of cops and cop technicians. Indeed, without the government's "Breathalyzer," there is no way to tell for sure if we are breaking the law.

Sure, we can do informal calculations in our head, based on our weight and the amount of alcohol we have had over some period of time. But at best these will be estimates. We have to wait for the government to administer a test to tell us whether or not we are criminals. That's not the way law is supposed to work. Indeed, this is a form of tyranny.

Now, the immediate response goes this way: drunk driving has to be illegal because the probability of causing an accident rises dramatically when you drink. The answer is just as simple: government in a free society should not deal in probabilities. The law should deal in actions and actions alone, and only insofar as they damage person or property. Probabilities are something for insurance companies to assess on a competitive and voluntary basis.

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Remember, "It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

Is DUI a crime if you don't harm anyone?

Also, what are your thoughts on traffic laws in general?

Are you familiar with these observations and experiments?

During the power cut we filmed this intersection (Union St + Wellington). We filmed again at exactly the same time the next day for a comparison.

Portishead lights-off trial which began on 14 September 2009 and went permanent after journey times fell by over half with no loss of pedestrian safety: http://youtu.be/vi0meiActlU

Tehran/Iran: Flow of traffic across a major crossroads w/o traffic lights: http://youtu.be/gkMA2HfFrzA

How do you envision roadway travel in a completely free society? Other modes of transportation?

I always allude to the fact that sometimes we just don't know what the free market will provide as a solution. The way I put it is, we can't predict the future with absolute certainty. Just like your great, great, great grandfather could not predict that we'd be able to send voice from city to city with little pocket computers, I can't predict how a free people will deal with reckless drivers and neighborhood drunks. I do have some rough ideas that I'm willing to discuss in the comment section if anyone is interested.

What say you DPers?

I like this topic because everyone hates traffic, and everyone can relate to it. Also, there is a lot of evidence against putting up imaginary walls in the middle of speeding vehicles. If people can grasp this idea that what they thought was helping them out and keeping them safe, turned out to be an inefficient scheme to fund municipal bureaucrats, then perhaps they could see the bigger picture and shed more dependance and love for the State.

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To the original question. As far as do traffic laws make the road more safe I think it's fair to say they do not.

But I choose to be off the road by dark most nights, walk or take public transit, drive as little as possible. As someone with half a nut, I know it's not as safe driving at night, especially after 10:00 when both cops and drunks are on the road. I tend to avoid both as both are bad news. If someone is driving erratically I avoid them like the plague. Cops included. Had to put a second on in there, hehe. :)

There are inherent risks involved in driving. To ensure others are safe, I don't drive while intoxicated, don't drive after 2200 hrs, avoid driving after dark when I know I can't see as well, I don't talk on the phone at all even with hands free. Some people have absolutely no problems with that. I do. I don't think it should be illegal, I just know that simply talking on the phone makes me drive far more "intoxicated" than when I used to drive after a few beers - which I don't do any more - for fear of the clink - but I can walk to my favorite bar or pizza joint in about the same amount of time it takes to drive - now I am a pedestrian - although I would say if I was drunk and stepped into oncoming traffic - absolutely my own fault - and would pay the price in injury - and if I lived paying off insurance to the driver of the car that wrecked as a result; and I stay alert, as well as not driving if I need to go less than 5 miles or if I can take public transportation. It's really hard on a car to drive less than 5 miles.

I wonder what impact this whole crusade has had since the 60's and 70's. Probably nil. Sure it's cost a TON of money for the taxpayer, and a lot of grief wondering if those tailgating lights behind you are from a bloodthirsty LEO (not to generalize) just waiting for you to swerve a little bit, and then write you a ticket for something else or if those lights of the person behind you driving recklessly. Again, why I avoid driving at night.

Driving is one of the most dangerous things one can do. I avoid it at all costs. Plus it's really expensive. License, registration, insurance, gas, upkeep. I drive about 120 miles a week at most. Most weeks are 100 miles.

It's a calculated risk.

Back when my dad was younger if you got stopped for suspected dui they would follow you home at worst. He got at least three of those in maybe 5 years while he was a salesman. Never busted him though. I had a friend who flipped a car which caught on fire in the early 70's who the officer told him to hop in the tow truck and go home. He drank about a half gallon of booze that night (probably a war story and less in fact)

Things should change in most extensions of LE dealing with the public. Unfortunately I have no proposals other than some radical ones which the public wouldn't agree with (no license needed, no registration, no insurance needed - I'm sure some are there that do help.) But I do think LE should work better on average with people. We are their constituents, right? They should focus on reckless driving and violent crime.

The one accident I have ever gotten into that was my fault I was angry, not even left my street, pulled into a driveway, and backed into a neighbors car. Did we utilize insurance? Hell no. I bought him a new hood and radiator and installed both on his car for him and let him pocket the change (he asked for $200, I told him it would take $300 - he came up on close to $100).

Later we became really good friends. I could have taken him to the cleaners and told him to go screw. He had no license, insurance, registration, &c. But it was my fault! You take action for your own mistakes.

Now I never back up with noise (eg the radio.) But the point is we can usually work out a deal. Insurance may be necessary if one travels long distances. I just hate having to pay for it when I barely even drive. In fact the car I have insurance on (not my work vehicle) I never use but need to keep it registered and insured to keep my DL.

NEVER let your insurance lapse on a personal vehicle if you drive another vehicle as your primary vehicle or in any reason. Some idiot insurance company had my DL pulled from not having insurance (it expired - no longer needed) even though I drove a company truck with insurance. It's a racket.

I had to spend $1200 just to get my DL back. And luckily I got a letter in the mail. I NEVER drive my own vehicle. But to keep my license I have to maintain reg and insurance on a vehicle I don't drive (or on my hot rod which is about $3K a year - which is one reason why it's parked.)

I still hate to pay insurance on a vehicle I do not drive. That's ridiculous. I HAVE to. Or else no DL. In fact before the new year I paid almost $700 to insure a car I don't drive. Not to mention registration. Why you need insurance on a non op is above me, especially if you drive a commercial vehicle insured by the company you work for.

Thanks for the videos. Out here things don't go so smooth if lights go out for a day. But I would assume you turn them off for a month and traffic would be smooth sailing.

I don't understand why we can't go back into the 40's to maybe early 60's as far as traffic law. I do like traffic lights, but not so much. I think maybe they do help if you are without them after years, and for a day, but after some period of time none are truly needed.

Shoot, wasn't long ago I saw the flashing yellow lights at many intersections. Now they are lighted up with red light cameras on top of having red, yellow, green. Some within a year or two in my hometown. I despise those red light cameras. If I was a nasty guy who didn't care a ruff I would take a tall cherrypicker and cut the ties to red light cameras. I think many are fake where I live but you never know. I wouldn't do it but I think they are BS. If someone gets in a wreck they can deal with it on their own and that's another reason why small claims court was devised.

Accident-Free zones - a related-ish thread

Would Declaring Nation's Highways to be 'Accident-Free Zones' Help Save Lives?

Your post is good stuff that makes you think about things another way...

Defeat the panda-industrial complex

I am dusk icon. anagram me.

Funny stuff Chris!

Thanks for sharing!

Although, a tax free zone right over my head would be nice!

I'm a serial entrepreneur and liberty activist from Texas!


Link added to last two words for clarity...and discussion too...

the State

I had to define the State.

Added nugget of truth: notice the difference between to, two, and too in my subject line.

I'm a serial entrepreneur and liberty activist from Texas!


i want everybody to know

that i was compelled by threat of force to comment on this post.

My comment is therefore prima fascia null and void under common contract law.

Be brave, be brave, the Myan pilot needs no aeroplane.

I had to Google it. I still don't understand! :/


I'm sure the humor will be lost in translation, but I'd like to understand!

I'm a serial entrepreneur and liberty activist from Texas!



It is most certainly a pre-crime and not to mension a racket. I actually tried to talk to the president of MADD in baton rouge, louisiana. I kid you not try to email him this long thing about how to lower Dui's and I tried to leave my number with his secretary. Left messages on his voicemail. Over and over and he never got back to me

Basically my proposal was this if you really care about preventing a pre-crime why don't you use MADD's lobbying power to lower the taxes on all cabs, buses, limousines, and trains. Reduce the amount of regulation on taxi cab companies to reduce the price even further and to make it easier for people to start their own company to allow competition to lower prices even further. Get rid of licensing which only restricts competition. The more competition will foster innovation like giving discounts to college students (inelastic demand)

The same can be done for towing companies if you choose to get your car towed. The price has to be way more reasonable. Lower taxes on places like triple AAA for things like that and maybe they will have a special service for like that and other companies will sprout up.

Reducing regulations on the type of businesses may foster innovation like calling a company up and they drive your car home with you in it for a small price and then their company picks the driver up.

Its the same principle that apple used which effectively reduced piracy. Make it so simple and hassle free to do the right thing that you do that instead of doing the wrong thing.

The guy not replying back to me let me know everything i need to know about MADD. They arent interested in lowering DUI's because they are profiting so much from it. They get about $100 per person in pretrial classes and extract money from victims and concerned mothers.

But what you will undoubtedly see is trying to solve a problem that govt created with more government. So more check points. Check points where they can take your blood. Fascistically forcing car manufacturers to put alcohol detection in cars automatically for everyone. Forcing bars to send data to the police if your credit card rings up too many drinks. The list goes on. But you can easily solve this problem with more liberty.

So... if i have any people in louisiana who would be willling to work with me on this issue to rally college students to protest on this issue and get congress to take it up. This will undoubtedly be the trojan horse to bring more people in the liberty movement. Old guys who get DUIs for 3 beers. My email is jeremy.chavis@ymail.com for anyone who wants to work on this issue.

It would seem

that the fact that the majority of traffic deaths are caused by sober people (between 62 and 65%, depending what government agency you look at), it would appear that having a few beers might make you safer. But it is not about safety, but about control of the people. The DWI checkpoints are, as many predicted, morphing into TSA checkpoints. The nation needs to get back to the "no victim, no crime approach to law enforcement. About traffic laws. There has to be some order on the road. I am not big on people racing through my neighborhood with the children outside. I would make speed limits a suggestion only if the one speeding has to pay out of his/her pocket the damage caused by their recklessness.

Liberty is on the march, tyranny is on the run!

The way I look at these laws are..

If its "pre-crime" in nature it has no standing. Period. Whether traffic or otherwise. Just because there stands a "possibility" to harm someone doesn't mean the "possibility" constitutes a crime. Possibilities are for people who wish to engage in gambling and those people must be prepared for the consequences in their gambling activities. Also, it's an impossibility to commit a "crime" without an injured/damaged party. No injury/damage, NO CRIME!!!

So long as societies run rough shot on individualism and individual responsibility of the people there can never be a "free society".

This is a paradigm shift that societies need to undergo to correct all these injustices commited to individualism.

Quit hiding under the cloak of "INSURANCE". Be exposed and be prepared to defend your action. If you can't defend your actions, then, maybe, just maybe, you should not engage in that action.

Until this manifests in the minds of people in societies there will never be a "free people".

It is one of the essential features of such incompetence that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. To have such knowledge would already be to remedy a good portion of the offense.

5 stars

Great videos.


I try to change people every day. Do You?

When drunk driving was "legal"

you could drive home (I call it traveling of course for legal reasons) with one eye open (for better focus) doing 10 miles per hour in the break down lane so that you don't hurt anyone.

With DUI laws you now have to PRETEND you are not intoxicated (because there is a DUI statute) and that means attempting to do things you are not ABLE to do which makes you less safe on the road.

Again however I must correct myself. Statutes are not laws. Everything the government passes is a statutory code or act. Statutory simply means a commercial regulation for a corporate agent/employee.

Good points Vince!

"With DUI laws you now have to PRETEND you are not intoxicated (because there is a DUI statute) and that means attempting to do things you are not ABLE to do which makes you less safe on the road."

Never thought about it like that.

I'm a serial entrepreneur and liberty activist from Texas!


Great post Rob. Glad to see

Great post Rob. Glad to see thoughtful responses. In answer to your headline. No of course these laws don't work. If you want deterrent change all the Anti-DUI promotions to say if you injure someone and you are under the influence it is very likely you will go to jail for assault or worse and lose in civil court all the damages + fees and punitive.

Get the state out of the policing for profits business altogether. It shocked me to find out that cops get kick backs or commissions if you will, for these stops. And it further shocked me to find out this is pretty standard around the country. Who dreams this up?

Watch this rocket scientist cop: (I think we would all beg to differ on keeping money in the bank LOL...)

“Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him better take a closer look at the American Indian.” ― Henry Ford.

I too am pleasantly surprised to see the thoughtful comments...

I had a more click-bait title, as you can see from the URL, but decided I'd probably get better responses if I changed it.

Honestly, I had this exchange in mind too when I changed the title. :/

I'm a serial entrepreneur and liberty activist from Texas!


I think the mandate

of police should be even narrower, confined to violent crimes, property crimes, and responding to distress calls. This would give law enforcement a commendable focus and foster better report. Don't get me wrong, reckless driving gets people killed, but apart from pulling someone over for exhibiting dangerous driving, handing out traffic violations and enforcing regulations wont save many lives. IMO, distractions, tailgating and over-driving road conditions are the biggest killers, and these are only stopped by instilling a culture of professionalism and practice. It's a little hard writing a ticket for these. We need to get the focus back on responsible and professional driving, and not avoiding technicalities and secondary problems. I'm always amazed at the animosity towards drunk driving and yet the total lack of respect for the dangers of driving tired.

Like anything

once you legalize it the it is almost forgotten about.

People don't even want to do it because it becomes uncool because it is legal imo.

I think there was more public backlash against drunk drivers who did damage when it was legal.

It some countries women can be topless in public. I rarely see a mad dash of women running around topless in those countries. Perhaps on the beaches but really non-existent elsewhere.

As well, there is no drinking age in various European countries. Sure teenagers drink but in my travels the kids still went to school and passed and for the most part did not hurt anyone. I think after a series of awfully bad hangovers, like anyone, one tries to limit the severity of them.


I find it very revealing that one of the founders of MADD....

(Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) was later arrested for DUI.

I oppose these laws and believe police should focus on reckless driving. After all, a flu sufferer is 14 times as likely to cause an accident as a person legally under the influence of alcohol or drugs.