In this country, there is nothing that means personal liberty more than the right to drive. In fact, it’s half of the name of this website.
Not surprisingly, DAD founder Jeff Brown, has found yet another opportunity to participate in the legal system. This time the issue is seat belts! Mr. Brown received a criminal conviction for not wearing his seat belt Thanksgiving Day 2009. This issue is currently being appealed and the relevant documents are linked below.
Memorandum of Jurisdiction
Amicus Brief from the State Attorney General:
Offer of Proof:
Audio Recording of Original Trial
And through this process a decision came to light regarding Ohio’s helmet laws that rendered the mandatory use unconstitutional. Amazingly this thoughtful and considered opinion came from a Municipal Court!!! It’s worth a read and is completely refreshing and reminds you of the attitudes that government used to have toward the personal freedoms of the individual.
Read it here:
In Ohio: • Over 95% of all motor vehicle crashes
• 92% of injury crashes• Two thirds of fatalities;
are the result of SOBER DRIVING!
DAD will participate in this year’s Walk Like MADD fundraiser in Cincinnati Ohio. Our purpose will be to spread the word that bicycles are a non-lethal alternative to driving and to advocate for a repeal of Ohio’s current “OVI” law in favor of the former “OMVI”. To make our case I will be using data which DAD has obtained from the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
Read the flyer
Bicycle Data: 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
The argument has been used that a bicycle could cause an accident, therefore it could cause a fatality. Here’s the data for that:
Ohio continues it’s outstanding safety record. Reports for the five day period were astonishingly low.
A total for the whole State of Ohio showed only 8 fatal crashes and 10 fatalities. The same number people were killed wearing safety belts as those that were not (4). Only 2 crashes were alcohol related.
Numbers released from the Ohio State Highway Patrol show, that over a four day period from November 21 through 25, Ohio had a total of 13 fatal crashes, 3 of which were alcohol related.
10 of the fatal crashes occurred on the highways and county roads, which have significantly higher posted speed limits than city streets, which had 1 fatal crash. Speed is the greatest single risk factor for fatalities, not BAC.
Although these numbers represent a 36 percent drop from the same period in 2006, as always with numbers this small the percentages are misleading. The actual number of deaths from 2007 are 14, and 2006, 22. Out of a state of 11.5 million people, your chances of surviving the weekend without dying in a traffic accident are better than excellent.
Of these, alcohol related fatal crashes totaled 3.
Thanks Ohio, for another safe holiday.
According to new data released after the Labor Day weekend by The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Highways were unbelievably safe.
A total of 20 fatal crashes resulted in 24 deaths. Although this represents a 71% increase over last years five year low of 14; it’s 71% of a very low number. The five year high was in 2002 at 25 deaths. In any case, when you are talking about numbers that are 25 or less, out of a state of 11.5 million people, the numbers themselves, much less the differences, are statistically insignificant. Overwhelmingly, Ohio citizens enjoyed the weekend celebrations and made it home without an accident.
The numbers released show all fatalities including 4 pedestrians and 0 bicycle riders. But since nobody cares about deaths caused by sober driving, the really spectacular news is that only five crashes were known to involve alcohol. Well done Ohio.
The traffic crash data published by the State of Ohio show 2006 as safest year on record.
The Flying Wheel, the official magazine of the Ohio Highway Patrol, reports that the fatality rate on Ohio’s highways is 1.1 deaths per every one hundred million-vehicle miles traveled. The Flying Wheel reports 1,237 deaths in 2006, down from 1,328 in 2005. The Publication Ohio Traffic Crash Facts show 1,142 deaths in 2006, down from 1,229 in 2005. Total crashes were 334,206, down from 358,590 in 2005.
Alcohol related crashes continue to be a very small portion of total crashes and injuries at 4.77% of all crashes and 7.9% of total injuries. Alcohol related fatalities were 39.9% but the actual numbers are a little murky. Using Ohio Traffic Crash facts, depending on the table you look at, the numbers and the criteria used vary. For example the first chart in the publication, table 1.01. This chart reports the total alcohol related crashes is 462, resulting in 495 deaths. This general alcohol related statistic is misleading because it includes anyone in any vehicle involved the accident, that may have been drinking, such as the driver or passenger in the car that was not at fault. To more accurately assess the danger posed by drunken driving, it’s the behavior of the driver at fault that’s important. This is reported twice in table 6.04 and 6.08. The numbers are 396 and 427 respectively.
It’s also worth mentioning that when looking at statistics, the smaller the number, the more exaggerated a percentage becomes. For example, if you go from zero to one, you’ve had a 100% increase; although the number itself is very small. In the State of Ohio you have eleven and a half million people and seven million licensed drivers who travel over 110 billion miles over the course of a year. By any estimation, all of the numbers used are incredibly small.
When you look at table 6.08, you see who gets killed in these alcohol related accidents. Out of 427 reported deaths, 313 times the alcohol-impaired driver killed themselves. Another 62 deaths were their passengers. Which leaves a total of 52 innocent victims of drunken driving, and none of these people were under the age of 18. Table 6.04 shows the BAC of the surviving drivers at fault. Out of 166 surviving people at fault in a fatality, 16 had a BAC between .01 and .10.
Bicycles had a total of 17 fatalities including 4 alcohol related. Put-in-Bay had a total of two accidents and one injury.
Welcome to Driving and Drinking.org.
Over the last twenty years, laws regarding driving and drinking have become increasingly harsh. The legal drinking age was increased and the legal blood-alcohol content allowed for driving has decreased. Fines and jail sentences became much stiffer, and felony provisions for multiple offenses were implemented. Then the penalties became mandatory.
The legal precedents that have been established are frightening. Under the crusade of stopping the national crisis of drunken driving, police now have the authority to set up random checkpoints without reasonable suspicion. Even if you’re not drinking, law enforcement can run your drivers license to check for unrelated offenses. This ignores the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
The government has granted itself the right to your bodily fluids (blood, breath, urine). And now there are laws on the books, and in the works, to make these kinds of chemical tests “mandatory”, meaning police are allowed to use violence to gain your compliance. These are forced confessions and ignore the Fifth Amendment.
And of course, the issue that inspired me to start this website, extending these penalties to bicycles. Here in Ohio, bicycles and other non-motor vehicles, like golf carts, are subject to exactly the same penalties as motor vehicles, even on private property. These laws create a very real possibility that someone on a bicycle could be eligible for a Felony conviction and spend three to five years in prison, without killing or injuring anybody. You don’t even have to get in a wreck. And because these sentences are mandatory, a judge would have no choice but to enforce them.
Now Mothers Against Drunk Driving are on an all out campaign to have ignition interlocks installed on every vehicle, and they are promoting “continuous alcohol monitors” which are ankle bracelets that wirelessly transmit to law enforcement your blood-alcohol content whether your driving or not.
I for one, have had enough.
First of all, the national crisis of drunken driving in America doesn’t exist.
If you use MADD’s own number of over 13,000 alcohol-related fatalities, and view it in context along with the population of the United States (300 million), and the number of registered passenger vehicles (over 245 million), and the number of miles traveled each year (almost 3 quadrillion), 13,000 deaths is statistically very small.
Secondly, MADD has recently reported that the preliminary numbers for 2006 show an increase of fatalities of 2.4 to 2.8 percent, the worst since 1992. One way you could look at this, is that the number of fatalities has remained basically constant since 1992, or at least within 3 percent, despite the constant toughening of the drunk driving laws.
I keep mentioning MADD by name. The reason is because there is no other organization as well funded, influential, or as responsible for this stream of bad legislation as MADD. In fact, their influence is virtually unchallenged.
Enter Driving and Drinking.org (DAD).
My goals for this website are to focus resources to challenge MADD directly, tactic for tactic.
MADD has been very successful in personalizing the issue of drunken driving by focusing on victims, and families of victims to illustrate the dangers of drunken driving.
I intend to focus on victims, and families of victims of drunken driving laws.
When you are arrested, you are treated like a criminal. Every day that you spend incarcerated is the same as having your life taken. The moral issue that needs to be raised is, what level of behavior deserves to be treated as a criminal offense?
Other issues that need to be looked at are how these convictions effect employment, relationships and family. MADD claims there are 1.4 million arrests every year. We need to look at the cost and economic impact.
MADD has also been able to effectively use available research to support its positions. Driving and Drinking.org will look at the issue of drinking and driving objectively, using the best data available, and wherever possible conduct our own research to fill in the unanswered questions.
The two areas in which MADD excels are: getting their positions covered by the media, and working directly with the legislature to translate their positions into law. From now on, MADD will find competition in both areas. Examples of this are posted on this website.
The over-arching goal is to get people to view this issue as a transportation problem and not an excuse to criminalize the general public. Alcohol is a regular part of American culture. From weddings and funerals, to ball games and barbeques, alcohol is integral to our lifestyle.
In Ohio, over 95 percent of accidents are not alcohol-related. Solutions that can transport people safely from point to point regardless of blood-alcohol content will go much further toward saving lives than concentrating on the 5 percent that are alcohol related.
Driving and Drinking.org
House Criminal Justice Committee
S.B. 17 Opposition Testimony
My name is Jeff Brown and I live in Columbus Ohio. I wish to rise in opposition to SB 17.
In 2004 I was walking my bicycle across my front yard to put it up on the porch, when Columbus Police stopped me for not having a headlight on my bike. I was immediately escorted to the police van, where I had my hands handcuffed behind my back and I was strapped in while they were writing me a ticket. At this point the officer said, “ I smell the presence of alcohol, that’s an OVI. I was taken downtown where I refused the breathalyzer and then I had my legs shackled to the floor and I was forced to sit in that position, with the handcuffs cutting my wrist, for over an hour. I spent the night in Jail and I was ultimately convicted of OVI. The whole experience cost me over $2,700 and I was incarcerated for a total of four days.
This is relevant to SB 17, and every other DUI bill that you will pass in the future, because every bill that passes, relating to drunk driving also applies to bicycles, Golf carts, lawn mowers, and horses, even on private property.
The colloquial term for this issue is Drunk Driving. But when the maximum Blood alcohol content allowed is .08, this nothing to do with being drunk, and under Ohio’s OVI statute, it has nothing to do with driving. What is lacking in this bill, and in fact, this whole process is objectivity, rational thought and proportionality. I encourage this committee to take a step back and look at this issue objectively and ask, what is the purpose of this legislation? What is the harm that it is trying to prevent?
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, nationally, there are 13,000 alcohol-related fatalities per year. The United States has a population of 300 million people. 13,000 is an extremely small number. Compare this with common causes of death.
According to the American Heart Association in 2004 there were 871,000 deaths from heart disease. The American Cancer Society estimates 560.000 deaths this year from cancer. The CDC estimates 400,000 deaths per year from smoking, and 36,000 people die every year from the Flu. The Flu kills three times as many people as Drunken Driving. CBS News recently reported that over the counter pain killers such as Tylenol and aspirin kill over 16,000 people. Taking an aspirin is more dangerous than drinking and driving.
Looking just at the traffic statistics, the EPA estimates that each passenger vehicle in the United States travels about 12,000 miles per year. The Department of Transportation estimated that there are 243,023,485 passenger vehicles registered in this country. If you multiply the number of passenger vehicles, by miles traveled, you will get 2,916,521,820,000 miles driven; yet the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that in 2005 there were only 43,000 deaths, despite all these miles traveled.
To break this down to more manageable numbers, let’s just look at Ohio using myself as an example. I’ve been a licensed driver for 34 years. I’ve averaged about two trips a day, or over 28,000 trips in my life. I’ve had 5 accidents in that time. Or, you could say better than 99.9% of the time I made it to my destination successfully. If you apply this formula to the State of Ohio; You would take 7 million licensed drivers times two trips a day, times 365 days in the year, and you would see that Ohioan’s make over 5.1 trillion trips every year and yet, the total number of crashes in 2005 was only 358,127.
The point I am trying to make is, that just being in an accident is extremely rare; rare to the point of being somewhere in the neighborhood of one 10,000th of one percent of the time that people travel in this state.
Now let’s look at that fraction of a percent. Again, total crashes were 358,127. Non-fatal injuries were 131,245, or a little over a third of the total. Fatalities were 1,326 or less than one half of a percent of the total. Alcohol-related crashes were 4.56 percent of total crashes, 8 percent of the injuries and a third of the fatalities. The number of alcohol related fatalities were 474. Now if you look at that number, you will find not all of the people drinking were at fault. The number of drinking drivers determined to be at fault was 415. If you look at who these drivers killed, you will find 315 times they killed themselves. Another 70 deaths were passengers in the car with the offending driver. So, out of a state with 11.5 million people, we have a total of 30 innocent victims of drunk driving.
Now we are starting to get to the numbers that inspired me to come down here. The number of people killed by bicycles, other than the rider, is zero. People killed by golf carts, zero; lawn mowers zero; horses zero; fifth wheel campers unhooked in a campground, zero. But all of these vehicles are subject to the same mandatory sentences as motor vehicles.
Ohio’s OVI statute §4511.19 is unconstitutional, because it is over-broad, wholly arbitrary and selectively enforced. There is no rational basis for enforcing penalties designed to reduce fatalities on the roadway, to vehicles that do not cause fatalities. This serves no legitimate purpose of government.
Also, this section of the law used to be known as OMVI for “operating a motor vehicle”, and the language used to contain the narrowing phrase “used by the public.” This meant that you had to be operating a motor vehicle on a highway, street or parking lot used by the public. This language has been removed. Now the standard is, “every device, in upon or by which, any person or property may be transported or drawn upon a highway”. This means literally anything, on any property.
No one has ever been killed on the highway because of alcohol. People die in traffic accidents because of trauma, trauma that is caused by large heavy vehicles traveling at high speeds. This goes to Newton’s second law of Motion, which states that, force equals mass times acceleration. For example, a Hummer traveling at 100 miles an hour can cut a school bus in half. But bicycles, golf carts and lawn mowers can’t.
It’s the vehicles that we use that are dangerous, not your blood alcohol content. The easiest way to demonstrate this is to look at the data for Put-in-Bay. Put-in-Bay is a small island, and a vacation community in Lake Erie north of Port Clinton.
The data on villages less than 5000 people has only been available for the last five years. Put-in-Bay shows a permanent population of 128 people but it has 20 liqueur permits. The Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce boasts that the island has over two million visitors per year. Over the last five years that the data has been available, Put-in-Bay has averaged about three injury accidents a year, and has had a single fatality during this time. People who have visited Put-in-Bay will know that this stunning safety record is not the result of people maintaining a low blood alcohol content, but rather, it is the result of the 25 MPH speed limit and the prevalent use of golf carts, mopeds and bicycles. Speed Kills, not blood alcohol content, and not bicycles.
Remember, 1n 1974 this country imposed a national speed limit at 55mph. The National Research Council showed that this saved 4,000 lives in the first year. This was even before Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created. And of course, OVI is selective enforcement because it ignores pedestrians, which are involved in a far greater number of accidents and fatalities than bicycles and other non motor vehicles.
How does this relate S.B.17? First of all, you are building your house on an unsound foundation since the OVI section §4511.19 is unconstitutional. This also creates conflicts with other provisions of this bill such as section 4510.43 which governs the use of ignition interlocks, since there is no way to put interlocks on a bicycle, and the language used specifically says “motor vehicle”. And again in section 4511.203 the section dealing with wrongful entrustment, the language used specifically says “motor vehicle”. So this wouldn’t apply to non motor vehicles as well, although the OVI section does.
The other problems I have with this bill start with forced blood draws. Using violence to force people to have needles used on them, in order to get a sample of their blood, is a clear human rights violation, and is completely unnecessary. Refusing the chemical testing already incurs increased penalties. If a person is able to beat that conviction in court, it’s only because they’ve spent over $5000 dollars in attorney fees. That should still provide plenty of deterrence.
By the way, hog-tying is dangerous and should be avoided. Hundreds of people die every year in police custody from being hog-tied. It’s called positional asphyxia, and the easiest way to avoid tragedy, as it relates to this bill, is to let people refuse the test.
What’s troubling about these laws is the way they make it through the legislative process. Remember, 95% of the crashes; 92% of the injuries, and two thirds of the fatalities are not alcohol related. This should be viewed systemically, as a transportation issue. But what happens is people focus on the lowest risk category, alcohol-related crashes, and then use an extreme example of a fatality, or, a death of a child at the hands of a multiple repeat offender. This causes a knee jerk reaction, and these bills continue pass, thereby criminalizing the rest of us. I would feel more comfortable if the legislature would look at this problem from the viewpoint of harm reduction, risk management, and cost/benefit ratio.
Clearly at the root of this legislation, and all DUI legislation in the past ten years, is another attempt at Prohibition. Only this time you’re doing it little by little, on the installment plan, so you think no one will notice and accept this as normal.
Now courts can order continuous alcohol monitoring even when the person isn’t even driving. Depriving an adult citizen the right to drink a legal beverage. As I mentioned, these laws now apply to a host of non-motor vehicles that cause no fatalities on the roadway, and in fact, as far as public safety is concerned, are the safest vehicles you could possibly use. You can even get an OVI for “manipulating water skis”, whatever that means. When you apply these laws so broadly, you are criminalizing drinking, and nothing more.
The clearest sign that this is a new prohibition is the fact that you can’t leave it alone. You keep revisiting this issue again and again every year. Alcohol consumption is nothing more than a risk factor, a risk factor statistically similar to speeding. And yet the penalties for speeding have remained fundamentally the same for decades. You are now advocating violence to compel forced blood draws after three convictions. Next year you will want to do it after two, then one. A BAC of .05% will probably be after that. Sharing databases with other states will soon be implemented, if it hasn’t been already. We have roadblocks without reasonable suspicion, we have examples of police conducting bar sweeps in crackdowns of public intoxication, and we have police staking out the homes of suspected drunk drivers. And there is no end in sight. There is nothing in the data to suggest that there is anything close to a national crisis that would warrant such extreme measures.
I have a few suggestions on improving Ohio’s OVI law, to make it constitutional, and more humane.
First, stop S.B. 17 here, and don’t mark it up to the floor. Next, repeal the OVI language and return it to OMVI. Only motor vehicles should be subject to mandatory sentencing, and let people know it, to encourage the use of smaller low speed vehicles.
Raise the minimum blood alcohol standard to .1%, so that you can argue that you are targeting impaired drivers.
After these changes have been made then stop. Don’t add any further punishments. The existing punishments are severe. No further deterrents are reasonable. Ohio should adopt the philosophy of the medical community, and First Do No Harm.
Driving and Drinking.org