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Bad News for Drunk Drivers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is starting a massive campaign against drunk driving. “We’re taking the gloves off on drunk driving,” Nicole R. Nason, the NHTSA administrator, told the New York Times. “This country has made tremendous strides against drunk driving through the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s. But the numbers have been flat for the last decade.”

What’s particularly interesting about this effort is that it represents a shift in resources at NHTSA. In recent years, a lot of money and time has been spent trying to increase seat-belt compliance — a campaign that has been remarkably successful. So with that achieved, it’s time to get back to drunks on the road.

Sounds like a good idea to me. Driving in Brewster, Mass., the other night with my wife and 2 kids, I was about 60 seconds ahead of a pickup truck that wound up creaming a sedan at an intersection. The woman in the sedan was badly injured; the pickup driver, who was soused, wasn’t hurt at all. And a guy I know named Steve Levitt once wrote a paper, with Jack Porter, arguing that a legally drunk driver is 13 times more likely than a sober driver to cause a fatal crash.