LA News Release, "Scrap All Drink Driving Laws" (December 2005)
NEWS RELEASE FROM THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE
In Association with the Libertarian International
Release Date: Sunday 18th December 2005
Release Time: Immediate
Dr Sean Gabb, 07956 472 199, email@example.com
"SCRAP ALL DRINK DRIVING LAWS", SAYS FREE MARKET AND CIVIL LIBERTIES THINK TANK
The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties think tank and pressure group, today calls on the British Government to repeal all laws against drinking and driving. Drivers should be free to drink as much alcohol as they like before and while driving. The Police should be allowed to intervene only if a driver appears from his actions to be a danger to other road users, or if he causes an accident.
Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, comments:
"The current law on drinking and driving is a prior restraint law. We are banned from doing what in itself may not be harmful to others on the grounds that it may in some cases lead to harm.
"It is a law that can only be enforced by indiscriminate stops and searches. Most of the drivers stopped are not driving erratically and do not test positive. It is typically the case with these Christmas campaigns that 87 per cent of tests are negative. The overwhelming majority of these stopped for testing must have been victims of some unofficial policy to stop every tenth car, or every blue car, or every car with a number place ending in a vowel, or whatever. Until a time still within living memory, the Common Law was emphatic in its prohibition of searches and seizures, except by judicial warrant and on evidence of some specific criminal behaviour.
"Turning to waste less easily quantified, every officer assigned to looking for drivers over the limit is one officer fewer to catch real criminals. This is specially the case at Christmas, which has lately become carnival a time for burglars and muggers. There are fewer officers around to deter them, and fewer to go looking for them after the event.
"Moreover, the law has a double agenda, one open, the other hidden; and pursuit of the latter compromises pursuit of the former. Years of propaganda about the horrors of drinking and driving have tended to obscure the fact that alcohol is not the only cause of driving impairment. Most people have come to attach notions of extreme immorality to drinking before driving. Few such notions are attached to driving while tired or stressed, or after drinking lots of tea or coffee, or while in desperate need of a pee. Yet these are often at least as dangerous as driving slightly above the legal alcohol limit.
"Much of the propaganda against drinking and driving has nothing to do with reducing injuries to life and property, and everything to do with making it harder to enjoy a drink in good company. Macaulay once said of the 17th century puritans that they hated bearbaiting not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. His epigram applies equally well to the modern puritans, who bray about the horrors of driving after half a pint of lager while refusing even to consider the effects of half a gallon of black coffee.
Real Punishments for Real Crimes
"If we want to reduce the number of deaths on the roads, drinking and driving should not in itself be a crime. It should be possible for a person to drink a bottle of whisky, get into a car and drive away - and the authorities should have no power to stop this.
Punishment should only come if a driver is so erratic that he is acting in terrorem populi - or if an accident is caused. But it should then in this latter case be very severe punishment. There should be no more of those cases we read about in the newspapers, where a driver kills three children on a zebra crossing, tests at three times above the legal limit, and gets away with a one year driving ban and a suspended sentence. Causing death by dangerous driving should not carry a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment plus fine, as it now does. it would instead be classified as negligent homicide, or manslaughter, the maximum penalty for which is imprisonment for life.
In this scheme of deterrence, drivers would still be tested for alcohol after an accident. But they would be tested only after an accident, and a positive result could only be used as evidence in a prosecution for crimes against life or property to prove the degree of negligence, and therefore to determine the level of punishment."
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