Out of Control Policy Blog

Does nannying save lives?

From our sister site, Reason, a nice analysis of the government claim that having the world's highest drinking age saves lives:

The oft-heard line that the increase in the drinking age from 18 to 21 has saved hundreds of lives per year is another good example. The Transportation Department claims it can estimate to the single digit how many people the law has saved: 927 in 2001, or nearly half the number of alcohol-related vehicular fatalities among 16-to-20-year-olds that year. No serious social scientist would ever make such an outlandish claim. Not only is it impossible to know what would have happened had the law not changed, but real research on the drinking age has not been able to verify a cause-and-effect relationship between the law and alcohol use or abuse ...

Yet the supposedly impartial federal bureaucracy still claims the drinking age has been as successful as the polio vaccine. An Internet search in the .gov domain finds more than 1,000 references to lives saved by the drinking age. It makes a great soundbite but poor public policy.

The bureaucracy's use of junk science is especially troubling because it calls into question the reliability of potentially life-saving information. If we cannot trust the government about the drinking age, some might argue, how can we trust it about the need to use seat belts ...?

Speaking of seatbelts, this editorial recently took yours truly to task for criticizing seat belt laws.

Thanks for the concern, Mr. Balaker, but [State Trooper Mike] Kesler, for one, doesn't mind watching for and citing unbuckled motorists. He prefers that to arriving at an accident scene on some Clark County highway where an unbuckled driver was thrown from his rolling car and killed. He'd rather not see the accident scene or the bodies.

For the record, I am against auto fatalities. It's sad that questioning the status quo can get you placed on the side of those who don't care about highway deaths.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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