Is Ignorance of BAC the Answer?
by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.
Police in 11 states and the District of Columbia have been giving inexpensive personal sobriety test kits to restaurants, bars, and drivers in an effort to combat drunk driving.
Some activists oppose the practice, just as some oppose Designated Driver (DD) programs. Designated Driver programs have long proved to be highly effective in reducing drunk driving. Similarly, the use of personal sobriety tests holds great promise in reducing drunk driving even more and saving additional lives.
Opposition to DD programs and personal sobriety tests may reflect an opposition to drinking itself rather than to drunken driving.
A leading alcohol activist has pointed out that most people incorrectly believe that their BAC is much higher than it really is. For this reason, he has opposed the use of personal alcohol breath tests so that people will be "forced" to drink less because of their ignorance. 2
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hasn't yet taken an official position. However, the president of MADD said that "we're afraid" that if people know that their low blood alcohol content (BAC) is legal they will drive instead of not doing so. 1
On the other hand, the head of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving, a non-profit organization promoting tougher anti-drunk driving laws, said the BAC tests help people make informed decisions. "When it comes to personal responsibility, ignorance is not the answer," says John Maulden. 3
Similarly, the International Association of Chiefs of Police supports the use of personal sobriety tests in the belief that it will reduce drunken driving and save lives. 4
It appears that there is no scientific evidence regarding the effects of personal breath testers on alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
filed under: Drinking and Driving