The Return of Prohibition?

David Harsanyi, in Reason:

[T]he decline in alcohol-related deaths persisted only until 1997. Since then the vehicular death toll attributed to alcohol has remained stable at around 40 percent. This stagnation in drunk driving deaths has caused considerable consternation among activists and law enforcement officials. Lately, the fight against drunk driving has shifted from serious alcohol abusers with no regard for the law toward responsible drinkers.

Neoprohibitionists aim to muddle the distinction between drunk diving and driving after drinking any amount of alcohol. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) endorsed the idea at a Senate Environment and Public Committee hearing way back in 1997, contending that we “may wind up in this country going to zero tolerance, period.” Former MADD President Katherine Prescott concurred, in a letter to the Chicago Tribune, where she stated “there is no safe blood alcohol, and for that reason responsible drinking means no drinking and driving.”

Technically she’s correct. Driving is never completely safe, and many things drivers commonly do-including speaking on a cell phone, talking to passengers, applying lipstick, eating a sandwich, drinking coffee, adjusting the radio, reprimanding the kids in the back seat, and daydreaming about weekend plans-can make it riskier. As states and cities have begun focusing on zero tolerance (or “driving while distracted” laws, which target the diversions laid out above) they are losing focus on the real threat, namely habitually drunk drivers.