Instigator / Pro

Drunk driving should be legal.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics

After not so many votes...

It's a tie!
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Contender / Con

"Drunk" means "having a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above." "Driving" means "the control and operation of a motor vehicle." "Be," "should," and "legal" have their ordinary meaning. Basically, this debate is about the DUI laws in most states. The criminal offense is "driving while you have a blood-alcohol level of .08 or greater, regardless of whether the alcohol has had any effect on you."

This is a normative topic, so burdens of persuasion are equal on both sides. Starting points are equal. Pro must show that drunk driving should be legal. Con must show the opposite.

Round 1
Drunk driving should be legal for one simple reason: because DUI laws don't serve any interest of our criminal justice system. As such, we should regulate drunk driving as we do any other form of specialized driving. 

1. DUI laws don't serve any interest of our criminal justice system

The underlying purpose of criminal law is retribution & deterrence. Retribution is the idea that there's inherent value to punishment. Deterrence is the idea that the law can discourage certain conduct through punishment.

a. DUI laws don't serve a retributive purpose

Retribution is about punishing people who deserve to be punished, like rapists and murders and thieves and sex traffickers. People who drink alcohol don't deserve punishment, and people who drive well don't deserve punishment. So too people who drive after drinking don't deserve punishment as long as they drive well. Drunk drivers don't intentionally hurt anyone, after all, and many of them don't even realize their BAC (“blood-alcohol level”) is .08 or above. These people don't deserve punishment. 

b. DUI laws don't deter drunk driving

It doesn't matter how strictly you punish drunk drivers, people are still gonna get drunk & drive. There's a couple reasons for this. First, drunk people misjudge their BAC all the time. After all, it's pure feeling & guesswork. Many people feel no effects at .08 BAC, so they drive after drinking despite DUI laws.

Second, police have no way to stop or punish drunk drivers unless they drive bad. So drunk drivers usually have very little worry about getting caught, because most drunk drivers believe they're capable of driving no worse than sober. Remember, alcohol may impair judgment, so many drunk drivers might think they're capable of driving well when they aren't. 

c. DUI laws are over & under inclusive

The ultimate social goal is to increase the safety of our roads. And the reality is that many drunks drive safely, while many sober drivers recklessly speed or run red lights. As such, DUI laws are over & under inclusive when it comes to targeting the actual problem: unsafe drivers. Which brings me to my final point:

d. DUI laws aren't necessary

Reckless driving laws already punish the bad drivers, so we don't need an extra layer of criminal laws punishing people just because they have some alcohol in their blood. Indeed, there's no evidence that adding multiple layers of criminal prohibitions leads to greater deterrence.

2. Regulation mitigates harms much better

In the US, citizens must pass a licensing test to drive. And for specific types of driving (e.g. trucking, or transporting hazardous materials), drivers must pass an additional test. These tests make the roads safer, as they ensure that people are able to drive safely before taking to the roads.

Therefore, I propose an additional licensing test for drunk driving. The test is simple:

  • First, individuals must consume enough alcohol to reach a BAC of 0.08 or higher. We measure BAC based on the body mass of any individual using multiple quantitative techniques. Then, the drunk individual must take a driving test focused on basic hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and the ability to comprehend severe driving conditions, to determine if the individual is capable of safely driving drunk. The test includes a computerized simulation before any actual driving, and drunk individuals are held to a much higher standard than ordinary driving tests. If the individual passes the test, they earn a drunk driving license.
This license would mitigate a number of problems. For starters, people who fail the drunk driving test would know that they shouldn't drive after drinking, without needing to perform any guesswork about how drunk they are. The licensing test would thus have a significant deterrent effect on bad drivers, which is the relevant group that we want to deter.

Second, police could go back to focusing on reckless drivers rather than drunk ones. This would improve outcomes at most traffic stops, as it would limit the amount of discretion police have to pull people out of their cars to perform BAC tests. Abuse would decrease. Mutual respect would improve.
I have spent some time thinking about this debate and I have come to understand that there are 2 simple loopholes by which Pro is trying to render an autowin here:

1. Any and all things I will prove happen as a result of drunk driving are to be chalked up to the bigger category, 'reckless driving' and only the act is what Pro wants punished.
2. All cases of reckless driving that are also drunk driving, which are either directly prevented via stopping someone and breathalysing them and forcing them to detox in jail and perhaps lose their driver's license and undergo mandatory rehabilitation and classes on safe driving and/or also indirectly prevented via deterrance and rehabilitation are going to be accused to be not due to the law and also immeasurable since we don't 100% know that each case would result in a brutal outcome of reckless driving (something Pro has denied is even an element of the law and how it gets enforced when someone loses their license, though this may be true in some states of US and other nations that have poor understanding of mental healthcare).

So, what I am going to do, instead of fall for the trap scheme Pro has set out, is to rebuke Pro's core ideas and let this become a very defensive case by both sides.

DUI laws don't serve any interest of our criminal justice system
(this continues in the next 2 points to be that it not only doesn't encourage rehabilitation but that it furthermore 
I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this notion since it is quite simply impossible for them to serve none. It is primarily a deterrant, for sure, as well as retributive in the sense of punishing drivers by giving them license points that accumulate and result in revoked permission to drive at all after enough times (or if it was severe enough after the first, depending on country and nuances of the drunk driving law).

I'm not sure which state specifically doesn't have mandatory rehabilitation for drunk drivers (being treated both for alcoholism and reckless driving habits) but I can give examples of many nations that have a fully developed drunk driving law (excluding nations where alcohol itself is illegal) and prove that the laws don't do that. This debate isn't restricted to the US alone.

UK's 'incentive to opt in' non-mandatory method (but you lose the license either way at this point, for at least 12 months).
When you can take a course
You can be offered a rehabilitation course to reduce your driving ban if:
You have to pay to take the course. It can cost up to £250.

Reducing the length of your ban
Your ban will be reduced if you complete the course within a certain time. The ban is usually reduced by a quarter.

Deciding to take a course
You have to decide in court if you want to take a course or not. You cannot change your mind later.

US method (similar for most states but instead of reduced sentence has a stage of strong encouragement to get rehab that stalls the removal of a license whereas the UK method gives the removal regardless and reduces the time if you opt-in):
DUI Penalties
Driving under the influence, or DUI, means that you are operating a vehicle while you’re impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. In most cases, a DUI is considered a misdemeanor and falls under state law. Penalties for driving under the influence vary, but in most states, drivers who are convicted of a DUI:
  • May have their license suspended or revoked
  • May have a commercial license suspended
  • May be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car, which keeps the car from starting if the driver fails a breathalyzer test
  • May have the DUI noted on their driving record
  • May be required to pay a large fine
  • May be sentenced to time in jail
  • May be sentenced to time in prison if the offense involved injury or homicide

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, all 50 states have laws that make it a crime to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above a certain limit. At the present time, the standard limit in the US is a BAC of 0.08 for drivers age 21 or older. A DUI may either be determined by the results of a breath test or a blood test or by the behavior of an impaired driver.

Many states have drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs that give first-time drunk drivers a chance to get treatment for substance abuse before they face the full penalties for a DUI. Diversion programs aren’t an option for everyone who’s charged with a DUI, but they can be a lifeline for eligible drivers who need help with a serious alcohol or drug problem.

I'd like to pause here just a moment and consider that non-rehab elements of justice.

How exactly are retribution and deterrance not being upheld? What do you think the fine, jail time and general fear of DUI charges is if it's not at the very least a deterrent and at best both that and retribution?

It is quite absurd to suggest DUI doesn't serve the elements of justice Pro is saying they don't, instead Pro's underlying case within those points, which hints at that retribution is not entirely rational and that rehabilitation should be the primary focus is supported by Con. I would encourage amendment to the enforcement of DUIs to have many nationwide Ads and general warnings on sign posts along roads and stuff to encourage people to get rehabilitation. I'd even support tax-funded schemes so that the poor easier get access to therapists (not just group AA stuff) if they have other mental conditions they're using alcohol to cope with (depression and chronic anxiety being common ones).


Reckless vs Drunk

Needless to say, this dichotomy is absolutely dirty play by Pro and short-sightedness for any nation that would even fathom it (thankfully none or extremely few have).

The reason you outlaw drunk driving is to not allow someone who is drunk to keep driving and murder an entire family in a car or at least one of the parents in the front seats. I don't think Pro understands how fucking serious drunk driving is, this isn't some game where we type words and win a debate in terms of what Pro is actually suggesting here.

If DUI is totally legal, the very things Pro says are lacking in DUI laws are going to be totally and utterly absent if the laws are taken away (which, if they were/are lacking, only mean we need amendments for better enforcement structure and law design).

Instead of giving people a reason to think twice and fear what they will do under the influence (even to themselves, it's not like DUI drivers aren't themselves hit in the accidents), Pro would have the government be irresponsible and neglectful and ignore what DUI helps prevent and just go 'hehe, it's only wrong once your drunk ass actually smashes the hell out of another vehicle and puts a father, son, mother, daughter or whoever in a  coma!' 
Round 2
RM calls my debating “dirty.” Not so. No tricks here. Just difficult-to-swallow truths. 
1. DUI laws aren't necessary to send drunks or reckless drivers to rehab.

Implementation solves RM's concerns. Reckless driving laws could include rehab options for both drunks & reckless drivers. A drunk-driving licensure test could help identify alcoholics before-the-fact. New drunk-driving regulations could redirect funding from DUI enforcement towards further education efforts (as well as rehab). Thus, rehab doesn't justify DUI laws.

2. Drunk drivers don't deserve retribution.

RM fails to offer any reason as to why drunk drivers deserve punishment even when they aren't impaired or driving unsafely. As I explained in R1, they don't because (a) no mens rea (i.e. no intent to cause harm), and (b) no actual harm to anyone (i.e. no unsafe driving).

3. DUI laws don't deter drunk driving. 

RM offers no evidence to the contrary. As I explained in R1, DUI laws don't deter because (a) drunks tend to misjudge their BAC, and (b) police officers can’t distinguish between sober & drunk drivers until after-the-fact. This is why stricter DUI laws don’t correlate with lower traffic fatalities. See Balko 2010. And it's why DUI laws fail to prevent over 10,000 traffic fatalities related to drunk drivers each year. See NHTSA 2019.
Pro is trying to imply that I have conceded that debate but in actual fact Pro has in reverse and this will come down to proof of the degree to which being drunk affects 'reckless driving odds of happening' and the question of whether or not Pro is actually trying to amend the law and still support it or Con is in denial that he (I) wants to remove the law and replace it only with rehabilitation for alcoholism.

Let me tell you now, in this debate I am not solely advocating for rehabilitation without any punishment, fine, jail-time, reprimanding of the drunk drivers. The only thing I agree with Pro on is that rehabilitation needs to become a more significant part of what criminals go through as part of making them safe and sound to release into society again.

Degree of impact of being drunk on reckless driving odds (of happening)
We need to firstly admit that we can't directly measure every single life saved, coma avoided, close-calls that barely missed so on and so forth of drunk driving in absence of DUI laws because almost every highly developed nation on the planet has some variant of it (or they outlaw alcohol altogether). What we also can't truly do to 'cheat this' is run back in time to just before the laws and compare it to now if we want a true scaled idea of the saved lives and severe injuries avoided since driving itself has become a lot more mainstream than it used to be (so it's exponential).

Nonetheless, it is indeed possible to observe closely around the law's introduction in any society that has it and to explore the science behind it being justified.

This has a stat that is even after the laws are introduced:

About 30 percent of deaths in car crashes occur when one or more drivers has a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher -- the legal definition of driving while impaired in the United States, the investigators explained. An additional 20 percent of deaths involve alcohol among those whose blood alcohol level is below the legal limit.
"Given the risks involved with alcohol use, strengthening alcohol control policies could help prevent many crash deaths, including the 40 percent of deaths that affect victims who are not themselves driving while intoxicated," said lead study author Dr. Timothy Naimi. He's a physician at the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center.
For the study, Naimi and his colleagues used data on crash deaths from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. In addition, state alcohol policies were gathered using the Alcohol Policy Scale, a tool developed at the center that analyzes an alcohol policy environment based on 29 alcohol control policies.

The investigators found that in states with more restrictive alcohol policies, the likelihood of alcohol-related crash deaths decreased.
For example, a 1 percent increase in restrictive policies led to a 1 percent drop in the likelihood that a crash was alcohol-related. Across all states, a 10 percent increase in the restrictiveness of policies would translate into about 800 fewer deaths annually, Naimi's team reported.
Moreover, stronger policies also reduced deaths in crashes that involved drivers whose blood alcohol level was below the legal limit.
"Although not reflected in our current laws, the risk of crashes starts to increase at blood alcohol levels well below 0.08 percent, so stronger policies offer a way to reduce those deaths as well," Naimi said in a medical center news release.

Hingson et al. [21], Fell and Voas [22], Tippetts et al. [23], Kaplan and Prato [24], and Wagenaar et al. [25] showed that lowering the BAC from 0.10 to 0.08 reduced alcohol-related fatalities by 5% to 16%, saving approximately 400 lives per year.
  1. Impairment is not reliant upon the type of alcohol consumed, rather the number of drinks over a certain period of time.[1]
  2. On average, a drunk driver will drive 80 times under the influence before their first arrest.[2]
  3. Every 51 minutes in America, someone is killed in a drunk driving crash. That equates to 27 people every day. Offer to be your parents’ designated driver to ensure that everybody gets home safe. Sign up for Parents Ride Shotty.[3]
  4. For drivers under 21, the U.S. has a No Tolerance policy that does not allow any alcohol to be in the blood system while behind the wheel. The consequences could include expensive fines, loss of license or jail.[4]
  5. Someone is injured in a drunk driving incident every 120 seconds.[5]
  6. In 2011, 9,878 people were victims of drunk drivers.[6]
  7. Between 50 to 75% of the people who have had their licenses revoked due to driving under the influence drive illegally without their license.[7]
  8. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teens, and roughly 1/3 of these accidents involve alcohol or another substance.[8]
  9. Since the early 1980s, alcohol-related traffic deaths per population have been cut in half with the greatest proportional declines among persons 16-20 years old.[9]
  10. In 2010, of the fatalities among children ages 14 and younger, 17 percent occurred in alcohol impaired-driving crashes.[10]
  11. Kids and teens who get involved with alcohol at a young age are 7 times more likely to be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lives.[11]

Other sources in quote.

I know what Pro will nitpick here:

"On average, a drunk driver will drive 80 times under the influence."
Pro will also point out that the deaths and accidents are still happening in spite of the law.

This leads me onto the next section...

Pro actually agrees with Con, let me quote myself in R1:
the very things Pro says are lacking in DUI laws are going to be totally and utterly absent if the laws are taken away (which, if they were/are lacking, only mean we need amendments for better enforcement structure and law design).
In not one iota of rebuttal in R2 nor constructive argumentation in R1, has Pro explained how removing DUI laws will help the very flaws in implementation that Pro points out.

What we have is an accusation from Pro that DUI laws don't do enough to deter and that the retribution is unnecessary, yet Pro is a hypocrite in 2 different ways:

  1. Pro still wants retribution for the drunk drivers via reckless driving penalties, despite preaching against the very philosophy on which retributive justice is based.
  2. Pro insists that not enough is being done to successfully curtail drunk drivers and implies therefore that more must be done.
If these 2 things are true (and they are, Pro's entire case relies on them), then why does Pro want to remove DUI laws while admitting drunk drivers are worthy of significant punishment when they recklessly drive?

The only difference in Pro's society is that they only get punished after their drunk, slow-to-react, somewhat delusional mind actually physically harms or they drive so out-of-control and have a close call that it counts as reckless driving worthy of punishment in and of itself. Instead of pressuring people with fines and repercussions to at the very least fear being drunk (obviously it doesn't work on everyone, that doesn't mean it doesn't work), Pro would have all the deterrance dissipate and let drunk people drive so long as they're lucky enough not to cause an accident.

Now, we need to analyse more about the basis of DUI laws and why alcohol does indeed irrefutably play a part in drunken reckless driving and why there is never ever a scenario where it's a justifiable risk.

Alcohol’s sedative effects impair a driver’s decision-making skills and coordination. An impaired driver lacks the ability to quickly and decisively avoid an accident or even perform routine driving maneuvers. Drunk drivers endanger themselves and everyone on the road, increasing the risk of automobile crashes and deaths.

Approximately 112 million adults reported drinking and driving in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, almost 11,000 people died in car accidents involving at least one person whose blood-alcohol limit was above 0.08 percent, also according to the CDC. The Mothers Against Drunk Driving website reports that 27 people die each day because of drunk driving. Four out of every five drunk drivers are men, and 32 percent of all drunk driving incidents involve a male between the ages of 21 and 34.

Car accidents are the primary danger associated with drinking and driving. Consuming too much alcohol impairs your ability to use your common sense and think long-term. Having too much to drink also slows your reaction time and makes it difficult for your brain to process information. When all of these factors come into play, it makes for one dangerous and distracted driver. When you aren't able to pay attention to the cars around you, you're more likely to get into a car accident. When your reaction times are slower because of alcohol, you might not hit the brakes soon enough, which can cause serious accidents.

When you get behind the wheel after having too much to drink, you're not only putting your own life in danger, but you're jeopardizing the safety of everyone else on the road, too. Many drunk drivers get into one-car accidents and seriously injure or kill themselves. In 22.3 percent of all car accidents causing driver death, the driver had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more, according to U.S. Census Bureau. In many other cases, they collide with other motorists, often seriously injuring or killing them. According to the "Journal of Political Economy," 53.2 percent of fatal car accidents involved one drunk driver and one sober driver.

There is not one single scientist or expert of any field I know of that denies the link between alcohol and vehicular accidents while DUI. Simply letting people get away with it until they inevitably recklessly drive and crash is not the solution at all. Equally, avoiding the law altogether is not going to deter better or rehabilitate better, Pro wants to improve implementation not oppose the law.
Round 3
1. DUI laws have failed us.

Dangerous drunks continue to drive recklessly, causing over 10,000 traffic fatalities each year. Meanwhile, thousands of innocent drunks get DUIs each year, despite no indication of actual impairment, despite driving safely, and despite hurting nobody.
My argument was simple: (1) DUI laws unfairly punish innocent drunks who don’t actually harm anyone; (2) DUI laws fail to deter drunk driving because of enforcement problems; (3) DUI laws are under- and over- inclusive, leading to unfair, inconsistent, and unreliable enforcement; and (4) DUI laws don’t deter dangerous driving beyond the deterring effect of reckless driving laws. These points work together to show that DUI laws cause more harm than good. 
As an alternative, I proposed a drunk-driving licensure test. Unlike DUI laws, licensing isn’t under- or over- inclusive; it applies to everyone equally. It doesn’t unfairly punish safe drivers, and it doesn’t unfairly allow dangerous drivers to continue driving solely because their BAC wasn’t .08. This leads to a more just criminal justice system, with less unfairness & more consistency. 
It also deters dangerous driving more than DUI laws, as very few people disrespect licensure requirements. Con’s own source puts a number on the amount of deterrence we can expect, showing that approximately 50% of people who get DUIs don’t drive illegally after their license is revoked, though they continue to drive drunk after getting their license back. These drunks are willing to break DUI laws, but they’re unwilling to break licensure requirements.
2. Con’s response leaves most of my argument untouched.

Con's argument focuses on showing that drunks drive dangerously, and that DUI laws deter drunk driving. The evidence doesn’t show what he thinks. 

For starters, alcohol affects everyone differently. The problem isn't how much alcohol in the blood, but rather the degree of impairment (and whether that impairment leads to dangerous driving). A drunk-driving licensure test would solve this problem, by providing drivers with clear feedback about their ability to drive safely while drunk. DUI laws fail to offer any individualized feedback, and they're under- and over- inclusive when it comes to the problem of impaired driving. Con never addresses this inclusivity problem. 
Second, Con fails to show that DUI laws deter drunk driving. In particular, Con never disputes the fact that drunks routinely misjudge their BAC, leading to the unintentional breaking of DUI laws. Nor does Con dispute the fact that law enforcement can’t enforce DUI laws until after the drunk drives unsafely, which motivates drunks to drive under the belief that they won’t get caught as long as they drive safely. 
Con also ignores the actual data on DUI laws. As I noted in R2, stricter DUI laws don’t correlate with lower traffic fatalities. As Balko 2010 shows, prior to the year 2000, traffic fatalities were decreasing everywhere due to increased education about the dangers of drunk driving, but after the US decreased the nationwide BAC standard to .08 from .1, traffic fatalities started increasing again (and they did so for the next five years).
Con cites studies that say the opposite, but these studies run into two problems: (1) they selectively look at 10 or 20 jurisdictions, instead of looking at the whole nation (and as explained above, nationwide data clearly shows that traffic fatalities increased after imposing stricter DUI laws; (2) their data fails to take into account a number of variables that impacted traffic fatalities in the 80s and 90s (the primary source of their data), including the enforcement of stricter reckless driving laws, increased beer taxes (these correlate with much lower rates of drunk driving), among many other factors. Ironically, Con’s outdated sources predicted a decrease in traffic fatalities after decreasing BAC to .08, but the actual data from after 2000 proves their prediction incorrect. See e.g. Hingson 1996 (one of the sources from R2). 

Moreover, Con's studies expressly note that traffic fatalities don't decrease without the widespread use of sobriety checkpoints. Yet that's a non-unique benefit, which is to say, my case doesn't argue against the use of checkpoints. Yes, these checkpoints would work a bit differently, as anyone with a drunk-driving license wouldn't need to take a breathalyzer. But driving without a license is still a serious legal violation, and one that requires enforcement. Con's studies suggest that my world would still deter as much as one with DUI laws, because my world still has sobriety checkpoints. 

Finally, a number of Con's sources note that the decrease in traffic fatalities in the 80s and 90s were almost entirely the result of a novel & intense educational effort, not DUI laws or sobriety checkpoints.  The data is clear: traffic fatalities decreased in the 80s and 90s due to a number of factors, but traffic fatalities started increasing against after the year 2000 when the nationwide BAC standard was decreased from .1 to .08. Thus, Con fails to prove that DUI laws deter dangerous driving over & above the deterring effect of reckless driving laws. In particular, Con fails to prove that DUI laws would deter more dangerous driving that the combination of stricter reckless driving laws with drunk-driving license tests that provide drunks with individualized feedback about their ability to drive safely while drunk. 

3. Therefore, please vote Pro.

I met my burden. Con didn't. 
Con didn't leave Pro's argument untouched, Con even turned it against Pro.

You see, Pro has been advocating to you a lie that there is no deterrence involved with DUI punishment. The lie inherently defeats itself because a fine and jail times are nothing but deterrent in nature with regards to justice but when it comes to 'retribution' Pro has a strange stance. Pro wants to not be retributing to drunk drivers until they go with their drunk-controlled vehicle and cause a severe accident that could easily be fatal. Then, when that occurs, Pro fully and wholeheartedly supports retribution for the drunk drivers because they drove recklessly. We are talking dead or severely injured children too but certainly their parents in the front.

This isn't some game, this isn't some joke. Real people will die, in the multiple hundreds per year according to my Round 2, if we legalise drunk driving. That is only the deaths, it doesn't begin to cover the injuries which can paralyse people etc.

There is nobody in existence who drives better or as good while drunk as when sober. Pro has failed to remotely suggest or prove this. Absolutely everyone drives worse under the influence of alcohol. This means 100% of drivers are jeaopardising themselves and those they come across on the road while driving. After all, it was their sober self that got the license to drive, not their drunk self.

It is extremely important to comprehend the level of risk involved with this.

Pro would in one way say we should deter those that DUI and rehabilitate them, yet then say we should be easygoing on them because DUI doesn't fully achieve this... It makes no sense, it's like saying you believe a certain ice cream flavour does too little to please your tongue with sweetness, so you want to replace it with a less sweet one.