Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Driving while aroused?

Opinionated Mummy puts drink driving laws into perspective after the arrest of a recidivist drink-driver for driving several times over the “legal limit.”

She  notes that the the only problem mentioned in reports of the arrest was “was that the young driver had a substance in her system. There is no mention of bad driving, no destruction of property, no lives were taken or recklessly endangered. The crime was simply to having the wrong amount of a substance in her system while driving a car.” 

So why is that a crime? While you think about that, here’s her last few thought-provoking paragraphs:

    “Yes, I know the preferred, acceptable (knee jerk) reaction is drunk driving has to be illegal because the chance of causing an accident rises dramatically when you drink. But, as I said earlier, we have a legal limit, so clearly a little bit of alcohol in our body is deemed to not be dangerous. Why is a legal framework dealing with chance?
    “The law should deal with a person's actions as they damage a person or property. Leave the issue of "chance" to insurance companies to determine as their competitive point of difference. The effect of the substance in the system is something that is perhaps more relevant for the sentencing judge. . . “

That’s true.  Driving dangerously causing an accident while under the influence should be at the upper end of sentencing.  It should get the book thrown at you. But driving safely, no matter how much you’ve ingested, should not.

    “[I acknowledge] that there is enough evidence to suggest that a person's driving ability may be impaired by substances, but that there are many other factors that can cause a person to drive poorly, such as fatigue or emotional distress.  Will there come a point where the law imposes legal fatigue or distress limits?”

If you accept the principle of laws against alcohol-impaired driving (that the chance of crashing is higher) then logically you should also support laws against driving while tired -- or while emotionally distressed, intellectually challenged or sexually aroused.  And how do you answer Lindsay Mitchell’s question: “Should a man with a predictable propensity for domestic violence when inebriated be charged for getting drunk whether or not he beats the missus?” Not so clear now, huh.

    “You had a choice as to whether or not you read this blog, do please do not post a comment calling me insensitive because your mother/brother/friend etc was killed by a drunk driver. Any person responsible for killing someone else is guilty of manslaughter or murder and should be punished accordingly. My issue is that we are criminalising and punishing people because of a level of substance in their body, not because of a true crime that harms/kills people or damages property. Anyone driving is capable of causing an accident, whether they are drunk or sober. Some drivers can drive with substances in their body and not cause any accident at all. How can we make a judgement call through law that they, and the people around them, were just ‘lucky’?”

Worth a thought, huh


  1. "But driving safely, no matter how much you’ve ingested, should not."

    More of the same equivocation, quixotic and nebulous nonsense.

    Someone who has just had 12 pints can be capable of driving safely? Absolutely?

    Yeah. Sure. *rolls eyes* Whatever.

  2. I'm glad to see this post, after my earlier comment on prisons.

    Is drink-driving a victimless crime?

    What if I take a machinegun down town and unload 200 rounds into the main street, but don't hit anyone, or cause any property damage, is that a victimless crime?

  3. Anonymous, instead of quoting out of context to suit your thoughtless position statements, try reading what was actually written and then try to THINK about that. Try very hard to understand the point that was raised and address that point. OK, we know you're a little dim, but surely even you can try to do better- just a little....perhaps?

    PC writes, "Driving dangerously causing an accident while under the influence should be at the upper end of sentencing. It should get the book thrown at you. But driving safely, no matter how much you’ve ingested, should not."

    The point being that if a person doesn't drive safely and causes an accident, then sanction should be taken. If he does drive safely and no accident is caused by him, then should not be.

    PC did not argue that if you were to ingest 12 pints of beer immediately prior to driving you'd be capable of driving safely. Nor did he state otherwise. That was not his point. He did write that, "Driving dangerously causing an accident while under the influence should be at the upper end of sentencing. It should get the book thrown at you. But driving safely, no matter how much you’ve ingested, should not."

    Try reading what was written, not what you dreamed was written.


  4. I really like reading LGM.
    I haven't read one of his comments that I disagree with. Good thoughtful posts.

    As for unloading 200 rounds into the main street - you could do that in Tauranga no problem - the place is a ghost town!

    The local council are wringing their hands trying to come up with ways to revitalise it when more likely than not their fault, what with high rates / rents, bylaws etc, not to mention the terrier-like qualities of the parking Nazis.

  5. Devils Advocate23 Sep 2009, 13:12:00

    Expanding of Goofey's point, and assume the gun was fired straight up:

    Should the above be illegal since:

    a: I have no intention of hurting anybody, therefore no force is initiated.
    and b: whether or not the bullet kills somebody coming down is a matter of chance?

    by your argument, I would only be criminally liable if someone is hurt or killed, since my actions are merely irresponsible and not criminal.

    Let's make this a question of private property:

    If you own a piece of road in which your children were playing on a regular basis, and you had the right to exclude any driver, would you allow drivers that were at a higher risk of injuring your kids and damaging your property to drive on your road?

    Add to that the fact that you will be liable for any harm to your friends kids playing in *your* street, would you allow a clearly impaired, be that drunk or blind, driver on *your* street?

    It's not a matter of managing risk, it's a matter of limiting the number of victims, something you state yourself as being the primary function of the judicial system.

    In short what you do in your home is your business, what you do on a common resource is ours, and I should have a say in that.

  6. Agreed DA. We really must get rid of these common resources.

  7. Devils Advocate23 Sep 2009, 14:22:00


    Completely in agreement.

    For interest sake though, if you owned a road and carried all associated liabilities, would you allow drunk drivers on it?

  8. Sooo... perhaps also we can do away with driver licensing, just let anyone drive and they're all good as long as they're lucky enough to not hurt anyone or anything. We also shouldn't need to worry about WOF's and having minimum tread on our tyres, it's all good as long as nothing bad happens. Then we can move onto building codes, let anyone build whatever they want, even in big skyscrapers, it's all good as long as they're lucky and nothing bad happens like the building collapsing and killing everyone in it, in which case it will all work out ok because they'll be sentenced harshly.

  9. DA: I'm undecided on that one. Probably. If so, I'd set a reasonable definition of "drunk" though. Unfortunately, I don't have that definition clearly thought out.

    This is certainly one of those topics where I can see both sides and the answer is not cut and dried.

  10. Soooo ... Anon, why do you imagine that common sense would go out of the window in the absence of central planning?

  11. DA, I think your example is a little more refined and you make the point beautifully.

    This is certainly one of those topics where I can see both sides and the answer is not cut and dried.

    Which was my reason for posting it earlier (sorry, the link didn't work) in Peter's post about prisons. To me it highlights a fundamental flaw in libertarian thinking.

  12. Simple solution to a simple problem: privately owned roads.

    Then the owner of the road/s can set rules for those that want to drive on the road/s.

    If you don't think privately owned roads are possible, then you just aren't thinking creatively enough. If private businesses can build the computer that you're sending your message on, then they certainly can manage to provide (and maintain) a flat piece of land for cars to drive on...

  13. Yes, 'safe driving' is subjective.

    Anyone who has driven behind a drunk on the motorway can tell you how frightening it is. Even though the driver did not cause an accident.

    A rather silly post - I suspect our host Peter was just running something controversial up the flagpole to see who salutes...

  14. goofey: You say that as though "libertarian thinking" is some kind of dogma to which all libertarians must adhere. Unchanging, and with an answer to everything. I see it as more of an expectation that free human beings, let alone to solve problems, will do just that. Because you or I can't think of an answer to a particular problem is no reason to say "libertarian thinking is flawed". That is, unless you expect the particular libertarian you are arguing with to come up with the answer to every problem imaginable! :) Generally, we just say "humans will solve it". I trust that free and enterprising humans will solve any given problem with much greater efficiency than a bunch of failed lawyers, teachers, economists, and general benchwarmers elected to run the country from Wellington.

    David: Sure, that's exactly what DA and I just said. The question posed was a little deeper than that, and cuts to the core of PC's post though. Assuming YOU owned the road, how would you set the rules for your road? Would you allow drunk driving? It sounds like PC would. I'm leaning towards not. Or perhaps allowing it, but charging a premium to drive on it drunk, and ensuring other road users know what they're getting into. "Had too many and want to get home? Drive on Greig's road! Only $50! Beware, we do NOT guarantee your safety!" ;)

  15. Quoth the Raven23 Sep 2009, 17:30:00

    A rather silly post - I suspect our host Peter was just running something controversial up the flagpole to see who salutes...

    I salute. A good thought provoking post IMO.

    Thankfully one day in the near future we won't have to worry because we'll have driverless cars. Ah the brilliance of technological society.

  16. As for unloading 200 rounds into the main street -
    Do it in Wellington at it is a real public service!!

  17. The first land vehicle that drove on its own in a public highway (early 1990s) in the presence of other vehicles, was a car designed using ANN (Artificial Neural Network) learning algorithm that is modeled on neuron interconnections in human brain, was called ALVIN at CMU. Yes, machine does learn of how to drive. I know that some objectivists here are too hung up on the philosophical definition of learning, but that's exactly what ANN learning algorithm is all about. ie, error minimization of information capturing process which is mathematized in a formal framework.

    ANN learning is one type of human learning (learning by being taught or learning from given examples) which is supervised, which is basically a teacher-student relationship. The student learns knowledge from the teacher.

    When ALVIN was first test-driven on a public highway, a human driver drove the ALVIN car for about 5 minutes and then he relieved himself, where ALVIN tookover. The 5 minutes duration was just enough data (knowledge learned from the human driver) that ALVIN captured so it learns of how to drive on its own. THERE WAS NO PRE-INSTALLED data or instructions that loaded to ALVIN prior to the itself being test-driven. ALL of ALVIN's knowledge of how to drive a highway, was just learned on the fly during the 5 minutes duration that human-driver drove ALVIN at the beginning of the journey, which was 100's of kilometers from one state to another state. ALVIN was discontinued, but all similar designs of autonomous land vehicle of today have something to learn from ALVIN.

    Perhaps, PC and the LIBZs would prefer driving a road full of ALVINS than one full of cars driven by drunken human drivers? Is my guess here correct here?


  18. HERE WAS NO PRE-INSTALLED data or instructions that loaded to ALVIN prior to the itself being test-driven.
    Proves you don't understand anything about ANNs.

    Who would I let on the roads: No public transport; only cars worth more than $100,000.

    Full armed response to any unionists, labourists, socialists etc anywhere near the road.

  19. FF

    You wrote, "When ALVIN was first test-driven on a public highway, a human driver drove the ALVIN car for about 5 minutes and then he relieved himself, where ALVIN tookover."

    That guy got a surprise then. Just imagine it. He stops his car and gets out to relieve himself and then....the car drives away, leaving him by the side of the road- pissed and pissing! Bet he learned from that!

    Seriously though, I worked on an R&D program for a driverless vehicle system, but it didn't have as much capability as ALVIN. This one was for trains, so it didn't steer. Even so it remains a difficult thing to get right. Such systems are not trusted as yet.

    BTW I thought Mercedes were first to do it. They had an S-class set up to drive on the autobahns without the need for constant driver involvement. It worked OK, even changing lanes to pass slower cars. They are still working on their system, but it may be a lot closer to commercial reality than anyone realises.

    Interesting potential for problems is when legislators, insurers, lawyers and various advocacy groups get involved. I reckon that will set things back for years and years. They'll likely stuff it up and what we'll get will be inferior to what could be achieved. Always the way.


  20. If actions which have a higher than normal probability of causing injury were not restricted then I would be allowed to walk down your street swinging an axe and firing live rounds until I hit someone.

    Would you let such a person onto your property?

    Well roads are public property meaning they are owned by the public - communally. Government on behalf of the majority decided on the rules for use.

    Seems an entirely appropriate process and normal outcome to me.

    If 1,000 people owned a road equally would they not democratically try to decide on the rules for its use?

    So how is a road owned by 4 million people any different?

  21. Barry: I see the logic to your argument, but it might be a little incomplete. It's the "obvious" argument, and represents what we have now. There are problems though.

    What if you are walking down the road firing shots, and I don't let you on to my property, but a stray bullet simply carries on obeying the laws of physics to the detriment of my window and my skull? YOU are responsible for my death (or reduction in functioning to the level of, say, Tapu Misa). No law around could have prevented it. You should be held accountable. Threat of this should prevent most rational people from engaging in such behaviour. It will still happen, but that's OK, we have laws to cover it when it does. The major flaw lies in thinking you can ever prevent these unfortunate circumstances via legislative means.

    For me, this debate boils down to the following: Dangerous driving is illegal. Assuming better enforcement, do you think that if blood alcohol limits were entirely removed tomorrow, that more people would drive dangerously as a result?

    I contend that most would not. We don't want to cause death or destruction to others. If I've had one too many, it's not fear of being caught that prevents me getting behind the wheel, it's knowledge that I might hurt myself or someone else. That's just my opinion though. I have nothing to base it on other than my own experience.

  22. LGM said...
    He stops his car and gets out to relieve himself and then....the car drives away, leaving him by the side of the road- pissed and pissing! Bet he learned from that!

    Yep, if I was that driver and ALVIN did that, I would have been pissed off too.

    Anyway, the ANN algorithm used in ALVIN is an induction-based learning algorithm. That is it only generalizes from the data it has seen or data the it was being trained on, ie the data that is has collected so far from the driving manner of the human (steering, braking, speeding-up, etc...). Anything else that it hasn't seen then it couldn't have generalized towards that target goal.

    Eg, if the first training leg of the journey (ie, the first 5 minutes or so during the stage when the human was the driver) was perfectly fine (ie, sunny) and then after half an hour or so later, during when the car was operated by ALVIN, there was a sudden rain in that time/area. Since the teacher/supervisor (human driver) didn't turn the windshield wiper on (because it was sunny and no need for it during that 5 minutes or so) where ALVIN (student or learner) could capture/store that action/knowledge. As a consequent of that unseen action or unstored knowledge by ALVIN, it would do exactly the same , ie, not turning the windshield wiper on.

    Now, in contrast to a pre-programmed car where human computer programmers/engineers anticipated such scenario as raining when the car is traveling, the program is written so that the windshield wiper does switch on automatically when it rains. This is the difference between learning algorithm and non-learning (or hardwired/hard-coded computer instructions) software. One adapts itself on the fly to the inputs from its environment (learning) and the other one operates on the same sets of rules that it was pre-loaded with regardless of what the environment inputs are.

    The shortcomings of ALVIN is the limitations of the amount of different datasets that it was being trained on. The more data fed in, the better it generalizes (via induction) the concept of driving on a public road. ALVIN didn't perform well on a gravel road, since it didn't have clear markings on the road. This is one limitation of induction is that you can only generalize from what you have seen not on what you haven't seen.

    The list of research papers published on ALVIN are listed on this page from CMU Robotics Institute.

  23. Greig McGill:

    "Threat of [dangerous behaviour] should prevent most rational people from engaging in such behaviour. It will still happen, but that's OK, we have laws to cover it when it does"

    Problem is that threat of punishment DOES not prevent such behavious occuring. Otherwise there would be no murders and no dangerous driving or anything.

    Prevention is better than cure. Especially if you're the one that got killed.

    Your argument that removing laws prohibiting drink-driving would not result in an increase in drink-driving...are logically flawed. Because you argued prior to this that it was threat of punishment that would discourage people from engaging in dangerous behaviours. Then if threat of punishment deters an action then why would you assume that removing the threat of punishment would result in less instances of that action.

    Your two statements disagree with eachother. Either laws which threaten punishment do not work or they do. Assuming they do (as you first claimed) drink-drive punishment and enforcement will reduce the number of drink drivers.

    If your argument is that an increase in the number of drink drivers would lead to safer roads you are arguing against logic which says that drivers who are in anyway impaired are more likely to cause crashes than drivers who are not impaired.

    Driver impairment could be from drink, drugs, fatigue, distraction...whatever. If there was a test for fatigue they would be using it you can be assured.

  24. Barry:

    Hrm, maybe I wasn't as clear as I could have been. I think you misinterpreted what I meant to say. Apologies, I'll try to clarify.

    It wasn't threat of dangerous behaviour. It was threat of being held accountable for one's dangerous behaviour. Sure, punishment, if you like.

    In the second case, I meant (and indeed said) that I was assuming perfect enforcement. So, remove laws on drunk driving, but not on driving dangerously. If people still wish to drive drunk, they'd do so knowing that if they drove dangerously, they'd be arrested.

    I hope that clears up any apparent contradiction? I was certainly not advocating removing all law governing public roads while they remain public.

  25. Ah, also, I just noticed I said assuming BETTER enforcement, not PERFECT. It's probably more realistic to run with the former statement. ;)

  26. Barry

    You're approaching the heart of an important issue by discussing ownership of that which is referred to as "public property" (even though the term itself is misleading). What is commonly referred to as "public property" is not property in the correct sense of that concept, as no-one can own "public property". It is un-owned. To own property requires that one possesses control over acquisition, application (including use), control over benefits accruing, the ability to trade or otherwise dispose of said property.

    Is it valid to claim that 4-million people own the "public" roads of New Zealand? No.

    There, then, is the difference you seek.


  27. LGM: I'm going to argue the other side of this for a second, as I think I see what Barry means here. Sure, it's not true "ownership", but given that it is what it is, how else would one set the rules for using it? I think that's the heart of the issue we're discussing.

    Yes, if the roads were privately owned, this discussion would be entirely different. They're not though, more's the pity. So... what should happen on the current playing field?

  28. Grieg

    It's not "true" ownership? Then what you are addressing is fake ownership. That is, non-ownership. In this case what is being referred to as "public property" aint owned by the "public".

    Now investigate what the arrangement actually is. At each step start by asking, "who or what is able to exercise the exclusive attributes of ownership?" Then ask, "over which entities is this exercised?" Spending a little time on this interesting exercise will lead to a result that may surprise you.


    You ask, "So... what should happen on the current playing field?"

    The answer necessarily must be to privatise.


  29. I think we're talking at cross purposes, LGM. I agree with you. I agree with your conclusion that privatisation is required. HOWEVER. Since that's not likely to happen in the near future, is there anything that can or should be done better given the current environment, with respect to drink driving legislation?

    It's just a discussion point, nothing more. :)

  30. Greig

    I think PC has provided the answer to your question already.



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