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Are random alcohol breath tests an effective method for protecting roadways?

  • It really saves lives and changes attitudes to road safety

    In Australia (a first world democracy and close US ally) Random Breath Testing is credited to have saved almost 20,000 lives since introduction in 1982 - that's 1% of Australia's population! Since the introduction of RBT deaths per 100,000 pop (a commonly accepted measure) have fallen in Australia from 21.4 in 1982 to less than 10 over the last decade (and as low as 5.71 last year). Of course this hasn't happened in isolation and other factors have put downward pressure on the road toll. But road safety experts in Australia agree that RBT has been the most significant contributor to reduction of the road toll over the last 30 years.

    I know that when Americans debate this issue it tends to be about rights rather than effectiveness - I'd suggest those two issues need to be considered separately when it comes to debating the merits of this. The US fatalities per 100,000 pop are 12.3 - more than double Australia's (and pretty much every other first world democracy).

    To explain a little more of the Australian experience random breath testing turned drink driving from an accepted part of the culture to where it is today - widely considered to be anti-social and stupid - or to put it in more typical Australian language - if you drink and drive you're a bloody idiot.

    Finally a few points of rebuttal for some of the "No" comments I see:

    Not effective because it wont catch all drivers: So presumably investigating homicide is not useful because we don't catch all murderers... next.

    Lots of other things apart from alcohol cause accidents: Sure, but they are relatively easy and low cost. When you are trying to solve an issue with many causes it makes sense to address the easy one first (low hanging fruit theory).

    Not effective - should have testers inside peoples' cars/licensed premises: If you have an effective RBT program everyone knows that eventually they are going to be tested, and they don't get to choose when it happens (except by not driving). This creates a powerful psychological deterrent for people. Will tonight be the night they get tested driving home from the bar. In Australia I probably find myself being tested once every two to three years. It's not everyday, but it could be - and that's how they want you to think about it.

    Takes away peoples' rights: Notwithstanding what I said above - what about my right and my family's right to not have to live through the agony of road trauma because someone else just had to have a couple of drinks. You don't have to drive - there are other ways to get around if you really want to drink.

    Drunk Drivers are a small number so it wont work: Well - you've almost made my point for me. Drunk drivers are a small number and they are substantially over-represented in road fatailities.

    They are entrapment - Entrapment is the law encouraging you to do something illegal and then catching you in the act. RBTs don't encourage you to drink drive but they may catch you if you do. That's not entrapment, just enforcement.

    Not always accurate: There are some problems here, but they are fairly minor. If you aren't drinking and driving you have nothing to fear.

    There should be better public transport: Yes - that can be a good part of the solution, but the first thing you have to do is create a very clear disincentive to drink driving.

    You won't get pulled over often enough to make a difference: For the scheme to work people need to know they could be waved into an RBT anytime. For that purpose if you, on average, test every driver every 2-3 years that's enough to keep it in people's minds that it can be anywhere, anytime.

    Could Be Better Targeted at Drunk Drivers: Notice this is a common psychological crutch in the US. There are good people (people like me and you) and bad people (the ones that do bad things). The truth is a bad person can be someone who you normally consider a good person who is just having a really bad day. RBT provides another incentive to these good people to do the right thing on those bad days. As for the "bad people" - they get caught in the net, become known to authorities, and removed from the roads. In Australia drunk drivers who continue driving while disqualified are imprisoned - that normally sorts them out as they realise they have a problem and need to mend their ways.

    Breaches the constitution - well that's not an argument against the effectiveness of RBT. However, to address the point I note the fourth amendment uses the term unreasonable search and seizure with case law largely defining what that actually means. I suspect the word "unreasonable" was chosen with some care. It is saying there are reasonable exceptions to this rule. I'm saying possibly having the right to operate a mode of transport where the lives of your fellow citizens relies upon your skill and care, in a very real and immediate way, might be one of those times.

    RBT is detention without probable cause and is a guilty until proven innocent approach: If a set of traffic lights is out, and a police officer is directing traffic using their hands, does them directing you to stop constitute detention without probable cause? Are you allowed to ignore their direction? Of course not. Are you being detained because they have probable cause - Of course not. By being a driver you agree to abide by the road rules which include stopping when directed to by a police officer. The test takes a few moments to administer (and I'm not saying there aren't times that wont be an inconvenience - particularly if you are running late) but I have never been delayed by an RBT for more than 2 minutes.
    When the police officer asks you to get out of your car that is detention. By that stage they will have administered the test, which you have failed. That is probable cause.

    To try and address some of these constitutional arguments - By choosing to be a motorist you are effectively giving tacit approval to the rules and regulations that the various state governments devise for the good of all on the roads. Does this affect your freedom of movement - yes, but you do have alternatives (you don't have to be the driver). Seen through this perspective, where being a driver effectively makes you part of an opt in set of rules and regulations most of these constitutional arguments fall by the wayside, in much the same way that an airline pilot, to get their license, agrees that they can be subject to random drug and alcohol testing anytime they are on duty.

  • Yes, many people drive while intoxicated and this will stop them, while being a deterrent to others.

    Drunk driving is dangerous and kills many people every year. By breath testing people and taking drunk drivers off the road, lives will be saved. Knowing that random breath tests are a possibility will also deter many people who would otherwise drink and drive. I think that the deterrent aspect of random breath tests is the most important, because only so many people can be caught, while many more may decide not to drink and drive because of the possibility of being caught.

    Posted by: babiekanga
  • Random alcohol breath tests are an effective method for protecting roadways, because you have to be sure to stay sober, because you never know where they will be.

    As much as I do not like them, random alcohol breath tests are an effective method for protecting the roads. The reason these work is that people have to be sure to be sober enough to drive, because they really do not know where one of these breath test centers will pop up.

    Posted by: eyeslikethat
  • Yes, because people will think twice about drinking and driving knowing that such steps are being implemented.

    The problem with drunk drivers has been with us a long time. The huge loss of life, and ruined lives, over the years calls for tougher measures in dealing with this continuing problem. Knowing that there are random alcohol breath tests possibly awaiting them on the road should make drinkers think twice about driving.

    Posted by: NettN355
  • Any act contributing to keeping drunk drivers off the road is effective and needed.

    While random testing may not be a consistent form of protection, I still believe that it is a step in the right direction in keeping drunk drivers off the road, and reducing alcohol-related fatalities. In addition, the more these random acts of testing are publicized, the more likely some will think twice about taking a drink and getting behind the wheel.

    Posted by: Quibarce
  • Yes random is much better than when the police advertise which weekend they are cracking down on DUIs.

    It drives me crazy when the police have a huge ad campaign that let all the drunks know which weekend they are going to be out searching. It's probably as effective as a teacher announcing a surprise pop quiz every Friday at 10 am.

    Posted by: etchedgrphx
  • I believe they could combat car accidents and help people that are unsafe off the road into sobriety.

    Alcohol related deaths have accumulated over many years as a hazardous thing and people shouldn't drive drunk at all. The roads could be clearer if they decided to make road tests with breathalyzers and have everyone checked before driving so they don't do an irresponsible thing and kill people on the highways.

    Posted by: waffletime
  • If you don't drink and drive, you've got nothing to fear.

    Many years ago I lost a friend to a drunk driver. In my opinion, we can't do enough to keep intoxicated drivers off our roads. Those who choose to drink and drive are a danger to themselves and everyone else. Random breath tests are a great way to prevent accidents because they take impaired drivers off the roads and this saves countless lives.

    Posted by: BLeonard
  • Random alcohol breath checks on the roadways would make our roadways safer.

    Drinking and driving kills people. Stupid people drink and drive. If there were stronger punishments and more checks regarding this issue then fewer people would get into the driver's seat drunk or intoxicated. They should randomly set up checks along various roads and do breath tests to all, so not to discriminate. Even though it would be an inconvenience to some, a life is more important than someone's inconvenience.

    Posted by: taihenraion
  • Random alcohol breath tests are an effective method for protecting roadways, it will stop drunk drivers.

    I do believe that random alcohol breath tests are an effective method for protecting roadways. It will stop a lot of drunk drivers. There are a lot of accidents around because of drunk drivers. If they set up random alcohol tests it would greatly reduce the accidents. Also it would stop a lot of police form having to stop for a DUI.

    Posted by: barbiegirll
  • People think they will get lucky, it sets a bad precedent for other constitutional issues, and there are better ways

    People think they will get lucky and not end up in a random breath test. They think "What are the odds?" A better approach would be to:

    1. Raise drunk driving penalties through the roof. Think 10 years just for drunk driving. That would scare them.
    2. Expand the availability of public transportation. It should be possible to get on a bus any time day or night.
    3. Legalize public intoxication. Punishing people for walking home instead of driving makes no sense if we're trying to stop drunk driving.

  • Personal responsibility is the issue.

    Totally agree people should not drive drunk/incapacitated. However I disagree totally with random cash grabs as we have now, if someone is driving eradically and gets pulled over then great - charge them, but someone driving perfectly well (perhaps the next day after doing the right thing the night before) and they read over is totally wrong. The only reason to interfere with someone is that they are braking the law already, not random harrassment!

  • No, random breath tests are not effective at dissuading drunk driving.

    Random breathalyzers are not effective at protecting the roadways because they are just that, random. In order to be truly effective at catching every single intoxicated driver, breathalyzers need to be methodically applied to every driver on the roadway. There are currently drivers who are not pulled over because they do not act intoxicated, even though they are above the legal limit.

    Posted by: VoicelessEmil67
  • Although random alcohol breath tests might decrease the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents, they are not sufficient to protect roadways.

    Random alcohol breath tests are not a sufficient method to protect roadways, for several reasons. Namely, this method assumes that alcohol-related accidents are the only cause of roadway accidents. However, many accidents occur from weather effects, automobile malfunctions, and traffic problems. Randomized alcohol breath tests would increase traffic problems, due to the necessity of stopping automobiles on highways, which slows down traffic.

    Posted by: PaleLoren54
  • Random alcohol breath tests can only identify a few drinking and driving individuals.

    I do not agree that random alcohol testing is an effective method for protecting our roadways because it is so random and only a select few individuals will actually be caught. The roadways would be better protected by requiring all alcohol serving establishment to give EVERY patron a test before they may drive. Also a required test inside a known offenders car should be installed before they can start their car every time they want to drive. Random tests will punish the ones caught but I feel that it is a slap on the hand and they are more opt to drink and drive again.

    Posted by: MeltedDoug61
  • I disagree that random alcohol breath tests are effective, because the actual number of drunk drivers is so small that it wouldn't be worth the effort.

    Random alcohol breath tests wouldn't work, because a legally drunk driver might skate through, while an innocent person is randomly tested. Unless there is cause for suspicion, breath testing with the intent of catching a drunk driver out of sheer luck wouldn't be cost effective, and may well be a violation of a citizen's constitutional rights.

    Posted by: N3vinFace
  • I oppose random alcohol breath tests, because it takes away people's rights and is not always accurate.

    Random alcohol tests should not be allowed because they are not always accurate, and if the person is not doing anything wrong, but are charged with a DUI due to a random test, it should be illegal. For example, getting stopped at a checkpoint, even though you are driving just fine, and get randomly breath tested and are charged with a DUI, it doesn't solve anything. It just makes people not want our government the way it is, and it feels like entrapment.

    Posted by: R3yn4FerIi
  • I do not believe that random alcohol breath tests are an effective method for protecting roadways because they cost too much money and use too much manpower which could be better spent elsewhere.

    I think that random alcohol breath tests not only are not a cost effective way to protect our roadways but that they are also entrapment. Law enforcement officers should spend their time getting those drivers off the road who have actually been observed breaking the law by speeding or driving erratically. I think this practice is just another way of taking away freedoms that we should have as citizens of the United States of America.

    Posted by: R0d0Ferdy
  • I don't believe random alcohol breath tests are an effective method for protecting roadways because it is an infringement on innocent people's personal liberties and freedom.

    I don't believe random alcohol breath tests are an effective method to protect our roadways because it is an infringement on innocent people's civil liberties and freedoms. Everyone knows you should not drink and drive, and this would be a waste of police resources. They should be stopping crime.

    Posted by: MycCra2ii
  • It doesn't make much sense to test random drivers.

    Instead of trying to intimidate drivers, it would be better if there were more public transportation options for people who have been out drinking. Here in Wisconsin, where there's a bar on every corner, public transportation is limited and the buses don't run late at night. People have no choice but to drive home when they leave the bars late at night. If we had better public transportation, there would be fewer drunk drivers on the road.

    Posted by: N Schroeder 60

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