The most important points from the UVic paper on IRP statistics
The IRP news today is all about the UVic paper on IRP statistics. We’ve read it. The news reports are inaccurate and there are some significant difficulties with the paper in our opinion.
The most important thing that they say is hidden in the last pages of this paper and that is this: they can’t distinguish between the impact of the intervention itself or the associated publicity. (page 13)
In other words the law itself may be completely irrelevant. It’s the publicity about it that contributes to the purported decline in drinking and driving.
Then they say that short term changes may not be sustained. (page 14). They cite two studies that show it is the publicity about new laws and not the law itself that changes behaviour. In other words, the existing research shows that it’s the publicity and not the law because the publicity dies off and the numbers go back up.
This is supported by their data. In the six months before the law came into effect, according to their graphs which are attached, we saw the greatest decline in drunk driving deaths.
Interesting and also in their data is that in the five year period before the IRP law came into effect there was a significant decline year over year in drunk driving injuries and drunk driving property crimes. After the IRP scheme came into effect, the numbers stopped declining.
In other words, the IRP scheme stopped the decline. If the trend remained the same, without the IRP scheme we would have had fewer drunk driving related injuries.
The authors identify no mechanism for their conclusion
The government and the authors have never identified a mechanism in their law that would cause any decline in accidents or deaths.
If you pulled up to a roadblock before we had this law and you blew a Fail you were stopped right then from driving down the road.
If you pull up to a roadblock now and you blow a Fail, you’re stopped from driving down the road.
In both cases you get a 90-day driving prohibition.
Under either law drunk drivers are immediately removed from the road.
The only thing is that under the old law you also faced a criminal charge and you had to go to court before a judge. And under the old law the evidence was breath samples that were obtained in a more reliable breathalyzer that tests itself for calibration, following proper procedure to obtain reliable samples.
Remember that the tools to identify drunk drivers are the same under the old and new law (a roadside breath test with the same machine). The only “certainty of detection” is greater enforcement. This is not an issue of the law but the application of the law. In either case drunk drivers are removed from the road. The police have had much higher levels of enforcement with the new law. So comparing the two legal schemes is really an issue of apples and oranges.
So short term changes may not be sustained (page 14). Add to that the well-supported research that shows that it is the publicity about new laws and not the law itself that changes behaviour, the inescapable conclusion is that the IRP law is not responsible for the purported decline in deaths.
In other words, the existing research shows that it’s the publicity and not the law because the publicity dies off and the numbers go back up.
Damaging our democracy
There are lots of ways for the government to get publicity about drinking and driving laws. Should we accept that the only way they can do this is by taking away your right to be punished on reliable evidence? Should we accept that the only way they can do this is by trampling the presumption of innocence?
If that’s the case, our democracy is awfully damn fragile. We hope that’s not the case.
And what about the numbers?
What about the fact that hit and runs have gone up under the new law? People are fleeing to avoid detection by the police and they are not included in the stats unless they are caught. This is a major factor that skews the numbers in such a way that makes them completely unreliable in our view.
As well, during the period that the law was not in effect (over 6 months when the court struck down the first version) the numbers were similar to the previous 6 months and the following 6 months. The authors indicate that this can be discounted because of the publicity (page 6).
Does this not prove that it is the publicity and not the law that is the cause of any reduction? Do we need to undermine our civil liberties when the real issue is public awareness?
The government has never identified what it is about this law that would cause fewer people to drive drunk. The punishment is harsher for a criminal charge and in both cases there is a 90-day driving prohibition at the start.
Instead of damaging our legal rights, why don’t they simply spend more money on public awareness?
As far as we’re concerned the most important points from the UVic paper on IRP statistics is that the IRP law is not the cause of any purported decline in drunk driving deaths.