Should Lawmakers be Legislating Tactics, or Progress?

The December 10, 2011, issue of the Post and Courier out of Charleston, South Carolina, ran an article on DUI legislation by Dr. George Spaulding, a retired GM executive and executive emeritus at Charleston University. The article takes a closer look at trends in DUI legislation around the U.S. Titled “Drunk Driving Laws Vary Widely From State to State,”  Spaulding takes a 10,000-foot look at some of the trends, from ‘tags’ on license plates to interlock and beyond, that lawmakers have focused on for the last several years. But what’s notable about the article is not the exhaustive list of DUI tactics, but rather, the absence of focus on measurable results of these laws. Not because Dr. Spaulding didn’t do his due diligence, but because more often than not, there aren’t any quantifiable expectations.

As Mike Iiams blogged about in “Defining Success,” state and federal legislative bodies are heavily focused on legislating tactics. But the fact that states are so radically different in their current focus underscores the challenges of actually making headway on the issue.

Of course, that’s not to say there hasn’t been substantial, statistically significant headway over the last several years. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities are trending down yet again for 2010. In fact, all traffic-related fatalities are trending down. So—is that the best measure of success for lawmakers?  According to Dr. Spaulding, maybe it shouldn’t be, and he cites the Centers for Disease Control’s recent study that cites 112 million instances of drunk driving in the United States last year. It’s still a substantial drop from recent years, yet 112 million instances of people getting behind the wheel of a car above a .08 BAC. That represents 1 in every 3 adults in the U.S. admitting to driving intoxicated. In one year.

Stay tuned in 2012 as we continue to watch legislative trends around the country.

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