It’s a management problem: measure for easy prosecution or for results?

“These laws are intended to make the job of prosecuting drugged drivers easier,” said Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University. “In states without these laws, prosecutors must rely on field sobriety tests or evidence that a motorist was driving erratically in order to prove impairment.”

Drugged driving laws show little impact: All 50 states urged to adopt such laws describes a study by economists at the University of Colorado Denver and Montana State University.

“Using state-level data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for the period 1990-2010, Anderson and Rees examined the relationship between adopting controlled substance thresholds for drivers and traffic fatalities. They found that the relationship is statistically indistinguishable from zero and concluded that there is no evidence that these limits reduced traffic deaths.”

Much like a posted speed limit, the existence of drugs in the blood is an artificial criterion that serves more to facilitate an easy to obtain number. Such numbers make prosecution easier. They don’t make the roads safer according to this study.

There is a close analogy with ‘gun control’ as political ideologues struggle to find definitions for such terms as ‘assault rifle’ that can make prosecution easy. The goal of the legislation is set aside in the rush to ‘do something, anything’ that sounds as if it is supposed to work. The problem is that doing things that don’t work tend to irritate people and generate compliance problems or make everyone a criminal subject to selective government harassment.

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