Drink Driving: Is alcohol to blame?


Dom Vasta pens a controversial post arguing that over-reliance on breath-tests ultimately makes everyone worse off:

There has been a lot of talk of reducing the legal blood alcohol level for driving from its current position at .05% to .02%. Many are for the move and many are against it. Proponents say that a lower limit will result in fewer road fatalities claiming the majority of fatal crashes occur under the .05 limit. What they fail to mention is alcohol is not the only factor involved in a crash, yet it remains the most commonly attacked one, both legally and in the media. The reason that the majority of crashes occur when the driver is under the .05 limit is because the majority of people driving haven’t been drinking. Let’s compare two common scenarios: the first is a man, who has been at the pub and has had a few beers, he’s not sure if he’s over or under the limit. The other, a man driving home from a trip, he’s been driving for hours and hasn’t had much sleep. Both these men are impaired; it is obvious from their manner of driving, both are putting other motorists in danger, the difference between them is: one is liable to be disqualified from driving, receive huge fines and even face jail time, even if he does no harm. Why do we subject a drunk driver to this and not a tired driver?

The technology of a breathalyzer has allowed us to measure blood alcohol content or BAC. Science has given us a “magic number” for BAC which translates to law as, “If a person is above .05BAC they are unfit to drive and everyone below is as good as sober unless they have red or green P’s stuck to their car.” While almost everyone agrees that this is not an ideal solution, most agree it’s better than nothing. But is it really?

If we approach this from a cost-benefit point of view, huge amounts of money are spent on breathalyzers and RBTs all in the hopes of catching drink drivers before they do harm, though the cost is mitigated via the fines imposed, it still uses up a huge amount of police resources, backs up traffic and inconveniences motorists that are not drunk. But the basis that the potential harm will be prevented by RBTs relies on the assumption that, not only would the drivers crash on their journey, but furthermore that their crash would occur after the point at which they were breath tested, So that we arrive at the fallacy that the arrest of a drunk driver somehow saves lives. The truth is: firstly, that most drunk drivers would have made it home without incident; secondly, the police resources used for RBTs could be better used on highway patrol cars catching motorists that are driving dangerously, and are not just impaired and thirdly, that smoother flowing traffic, as a result of motorists not randomly being pulled over, would result in a safer, more efficient journey for everyone on the road.

Another factor that most of those who call for zero tolerance on intoxicated driving fail to take into account is drivers who believe they are impaired will drive more carefully and take fewer risks to compensate for their lack of sobriety or if they believe they are significantly impaired, whether they are drunk, tired or high, many will refuse to drive at all. While road fatalities have been reduced in past years, it is unlikely that stiffer penalties on drink driving or tougher enforcement of the .05BAC limit have caused this. The numerous gory advertising campaigns showing motorists the consequences of driving whilst impaired should be a much more effective way to prevent drink driving, as few drivers want to end up as a bloody splatter wrapped around a telegraph pole.  Yet the “zero tolerance” crowd somehow believes that motorists would knowingly put themselves and others at a much higher risk of death or serious injury unless they threaten them with loss of license and fines. The entire motive for a set of penalties for intoxicated driving comes down to the premise that people value their money and their ability to drive more than their lives and the lives of others on the road. But these penalties are actually shifting motorist’s attitudes that way; many people that drink and drive have the primary objective of “not getting caught”, rather than the objective of “not crashing and dying”.

One thing does remain clear, driving whilst impaired, for any reason, is dangerous, no questions about it. But, should we let a little device that reads out a number tell us whether we’re too impaired to drive? Or should we rely on our own instincts and the instincts of those around us to decide whether it’s worth the risk?

 Dom Vasta is a "freedom loving student" from Brisbane, Australia, who is currently studying Engineering and Science at the University of Queensland. He supports liberalization of drug and gun laws and the privatization of nearly every aspect of government. This is an unedited entry into our $750 for 750 words contest for aspiring young writers. 

Get the government out of our brains


Dom Vasta questions why the United Nations has the right to tell us what chemicals we can have inside our own bodies:

N,N-dimethyltryptamine or DMT is a hallucinogen, it is also a commonly occurring trypamine in nature and structurally similar to serotonin, it is found in in the human body at mg/L concentrations in the cerebral spinal fluid, it’s exact function is still unknown but there’s no doubt of it’s importance in the brain. The active dose of DMT is 4mg intravenously, the average human has far more than this. It’s relatively easy to extract from the numerous plants that contain it, which are found on nearly every continent on Earth.

This brings us to the main problem: The 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic substances. It lists it as a schedule 1 substance; this means that DMT is illegal throughout all member nations, effectively banning people from having possession of it anywhere in the world. While it's not clear whether or not the UN convention was provided with this information before they banned it, the fact that the UN can ban a substance that occurs naturally in the human body as commonly as amino acids, shows that the government will just ban things left and right if given the power.

Without all relevant information people can be convinced that banning water under its chemical name, dihyrdogen monoxide, is a good idea. Special interest groups will always have the ear of the government for their own private motives and will use tactics of omission and sometimes even blatant lies in the cases of drug and gun control, to get their way. So why should they be able legislate what is in the public’s best interest? If the government followed the 1971 convention to the letter, they would have to remove the substance from every person’s spinal cord, a very invasive procedure made completely necessary to enforce an ill thought up law. But how is this different from police today? They have a right to search you on only the suspicion of carrying drugs. It’s only a small step from there to searching you for drugs in your system, and in many cases they do. Roadside drug tests are becoming as common as RBTs, while alcohol has a relatively short half life, the fact that DMT occurs naturally in the body makes it impossible to tell whether the person is using it as a hallucinogen or had no intention to ever use it at all. DMT isn’t the only endogenous substance (produced inside the body)  that is regulated in the interest of protecting people many steroids and hormones are already controlled substances, available only by prescription.  It’s not a big step to apply this to supplements, which could have huge impacts on many people’s wellbeing.

While professional medical training may be needed to diagnose hormone deficiency, self medication with amino acids like tryptophan and fatty acids like omega-3 are used frequently to improve brain function, and these are substances which are not produced in the body but must be taken from outside sources, yet if someone feels that adding more DMT to their system is a pleasurable experience they are to be thrown in jail according to a 40 year old convention. So, why should the UN, or even our own government, be allowed to tell us what we are and aren’t allowed to have inside us, particularly when the substances in question are already produced inside us, not to mention essential for proper mental health.

Dom Vasta is a "freedom loving student" from Brisbane, Australia, who is currently studying Engineering and Science at the University of Queensland. He supports liberalization of drug and gun laws