In the 1944 film Gaslight, Ingrid Bergman’s character Paula Alquist Anton meets and marries the charming Gregory Anton played by Charles Boyer. The husband does everything in his power to isolate his wife from other people. He allows her neither to go out nor to have visitors, implying that he is doing so for her own good, because her nerves have been acting up, causing her to become a kleptomaniac and to imagine things that are not real. On the one occasion when he does take her out to a musical gathering at a friend’s house, he shows Paula his watch chain, from which his watch has mysteriously disappeared. When he finds it in her handbag, she becomes hysterical, and Gregory takes her home. She sees why she should not go out in public. We learn that these events have been part of a sophisticated manipulation by Gregory . In the film’s dénouement the wife’s sanity is returned when a police detective confirms her belief that the gaslights are indeed flickering. It is from this scene that we get the psychological term “gaslighting” which“is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.” Dorpat, T.L. (1994). “On the double whammy and gaslighting”. Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy 11 (1): 91–96. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
Why do I maintain that neo-prohibitionists, their corporate backers and their government supporters are engaged in gaslighting when it comes to DUI laws?
Ohio has declared WAR on drunk drivers. This must mean that drunk driving is more pervasive than ever, right? This is simply not the case. We have made massive strides in combatting the problem. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities have dropped from 60% of all traffic deaths in 1982 down to 31% in 2010. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 2010 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview. Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note. 2011 (December). DOT HS 811 552. Page 2, Table 3. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities per vehicle miles driven have also dropped dramatically — from 1.64 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 1982 down to 0.45 in 2006 (the latest year for which such statistics are available). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2006 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment: Alcohol-Related Fatalities. Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note. 2007. DOT HS 810 821. Page 1, Figure 1. The proportion of alcohol-related crash fatalities has fallen 52% since 1982, but the proportion of traffic deaths NOT associated with alcohol has jumped 78% during the same time. These number are not presented to demonstrate that drunk driving is not a national problem – it is. The numbers are not meant to mitigate the immeasurable pain of a totally preventable drunk driving tragedy, but to ask whether or not implementing a policy of ever increasing penalties will help stop the problem. It can be argued that we are winning the battle against alcohol-related traffic deaths. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 2010 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview. Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note. 2011 (December). DOT HS 811 552. Page 2, Table 3; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Fatalities in 2010 Drop to Lowest Rate in Recorded History. NHTSA Press Release. April 1, 2011.
The general public has also been led to believe that longer and longer jail sentences are effective in combatting drunk drivers. Despite the popularity and political expediency of ratcheting up jail time, research suggests that jail or prison sentences for alcohol offenses appear to be of little value in deterring high BAC drivers. Compton, R. Preliminary analysis of the effect of Tennessee’s mandatory jail sanction on DWI recidivism. Research Notes. 1986 (June) Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Homel, R. Policing and Punishing the Drinking Driver: A Study of General and Specific Deterrence. NY: Springer Verlag, 1988; Joksch, H.C. The Impact of Severe Penalties on Drinking and Driving. Washington, D.C.: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 1988; Ross, H.L., and Klette, H. (1995). Abandonment of mandatory jail for impaired drivers in Norway and Sweden. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 1995, 27(2),151-157 as cited by Dr. David J. Hanson, Alcohol Problems and Solutions. Research suggest that the cry for larger and larger fines is also an ineffective policy. In fact, large fines appear have little deterrent effect, according to research. Lawpoolski, S., et al. Speeding Tickets: Effective Deterrents for Future Violations or Not? Apaer presented at TRB annual meeting, 2006.
We have been manipulated to believe that all drunk drivers are the same and that they pose the same threat level. In fact, some have gone as far as saying every drunk driver should be charged with attempted murder. Ozy Editors, Does DUI = Attempted Murder?, Sept. 2013. The fact is that we know the average BAC among fatally injured drinking drivers is .16. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Performance Measures. NHTSA Budget Overview FY 2007. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007. High BAC drivers tend to be male, aged 25-35, and have a history of DWI convictions and polydrug abuse. Hedlund, James and James Fell. Repeat Offenders and Persistent Drinking Drivers in the U.S..Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007. Hardcore drunk drivers are responsible for 70% of all drunk driving fatalities and are 380 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. Drivers with blood alcohol concentration levels in excess of .15 are only one percent of all drivers on weekend nights; however, they are involved in nearly 50% of all fatal crashes during that time. Id. Instead of focusing on this problem group, government/corporate/prohibitionist groups apply DUI laws against every driver on the road.
Often the harshest DUI penalties are applied to every driver. An example of this is the use of roadblocks and checkpoints which are not as effective as other law enforcement methods, but are used primarily to intimidate and deter the general populous and attack some of our most cherished American ideals. Perhaps the most egregious form of this gaslighting is the “No-refusal” checkpoint in which judges are sitting by to allow forced blood draws for any person attempting to evade a breath test. Another example of this misguided approach is the DADSS program which seeks to have passive alcohol searches embedded in every car manufactured in the United States. No one dares question the need for crack-downs like the twice annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and its accompanying multimillion dollar ad blitz. Why do we never pause to ask if this is helping.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving became the most successful advocacy group of all time not because of their demand for “penalties for all,” but because they were able to successfully challenge the social norm that drinking a driving was harmless and an activity that we all engaged in. Hellstrom, David. “Reducing Risk: The Prevention Collaborative’s Positive Social Norming Campaign.” Conference presentation at the National Conference on the Social Norms Model, July 17, 2003, Boston, MA; Collaboration and social norms: The key to reducing impaired driving among college students in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The Peer Educator, October 2002, Vol. 25, No.3; National Social Norms Resource Center. Minnesota DWI Prevention: The Prevention Collaborative as cited by Dr. David J. Hanson, Alcohol Problems and Solutions. In his book Why People Obey The Law, legal scholar Tom Tyler argues that compliance with the law has less to do with deterrence (fear of penalty) than with the rational decision that complying with the law is in a person’s self-interest. More important to their compliance is the decision that following the law is the right thing to do. Having the biggest impact on their perception of the law is the belief in the legitimacy of the authority. “People who go to traffic court are less concerned with the outcome – even when it is a costly ticket or fine – than with the fairness of the process.” Vanderbilt, Tom. Traffic: why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us), 2008, pp 235. Thus the societal norm that driving within the speed limit and driving without being impaired, is an agreed upon social construct and is enforced best by our agreement that violating these laws is dangerous and deserving of punishment.
For generations, Ohio have been told to fear alcohol and have overly taxed and regulated the alcohol industry. Ohio is one of 17 states where the government controls liquor sales. While the “sin tax” in Ohio is huge, with taxes accounting for 40% of the retail price, some groups push their prohibitoinist agenda in calls for higher taxes on alcohol and more regulation. Research demonstrates the fallacy of this policy. Increasing the cost of alcohol with increased taxation would have virtually no impact on reducing drunk driving. Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Problems: Alcohol, Culture and Control. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995. Common sense dictates that cost will not be a factor in the decision making process of a heavy alcohol user.
We have so demonized alcohol that we have created a counter-intuitive binge drinking culture amongst our youth. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others call this folly to even consider lowering the drinking age. Since 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act has required states to raise the age to 21 or lose federal transportation money. South Dakota was the last state to comply, in 1988. Vermont voted to raise the age in 1985, and in the ensuing 20 years, alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped by 40 percent, according to Vermont State Police. “Is there any significant support in the U.S. Congress for changing the law? We don’t see that,” said Chuck Hurley, CEO of MADD. Typically, when states flirt with the idea, they quickly abandon it for fear of losing the highway funding, he said. This is gaslighting – preventing a needed national debate by making the topic off limits at the risk of losing highway traffic funds. “Our laws aren’t working. They’re not preventing underage drinking. What they’re doing is putting it outside the public eye,” Vermont state Sen. Hinda Miller said. “So you have a lot of kids binge drinking. They get sick, they get scared and they get into trouble and they can’t call because they know it’s illegal.”
Don’t ever drink and drive. Be a designated driver. Use alcohol responsibly. Be there for people who suffer from addiction. We can do this! Things will get better!
Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio. He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671. You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500. Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog. Email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324. “All I do is DUI defense.”
IFor more about DUI laws check these city-specific sites at the following links: