Recently after finding her way to the AboveTopSecret.com discussion board for member commentary on Mother's Against Drunk Drivers, Jeanne Pruett, the
Founder, President and CEO of R.I.D.L., an awareness and activism organization seeking Responsibility in DUI Laws, agreed to an
interview to explain her mission and highlight issues in DUI laws.
Q: What is R.I.D.L.?
Responbility In DUI Laws, Inc. (R.I.D.L.) is a non-profit organization based in Livonia, MI. We are a group of concerned citizens who
recognize that the current trend in DUI laws is aimed at criminalizing and punishing Responsible Drinkers and is having little if any affect towards
curbing drunk driving. Our mission is to educate the public and lawmakers about the misdirection of the current laws, take the steps necessary to get
the current laws repealed and to provide alternative suggestions for dealing with the problem of drunk driving. Our organization is nationwide and is
growing at a very fast pace. We currently have members in 33 states and a few from other countries. We have members who drink and members who don’t
drink. We have members who’ve had a DUI and those who have not. We even have members who have had a friend or loved one killed by a drunk driver. What
we all have in common is a concern about how the “drunk driving” laws are eroding our hard-won liberties and civil rights.
Q: What circumstances specifically prompted you to found RIDL?
A police officer lied on the stand under oath about me and the events of the night he arrested me. He was caught lying by my attorney and
yet he was never accused or prosecuted for perjury and he still has his job. I was astonished to learn that our court system allows police to perjure
themselves with impunity. After that I began to research DUI laws. In particular I became interested in the FARS database and how NHTSA comes up with
the "alcohol-related" figure. When I discovered that they were counting bicyclists, pedestrian and passengers who had been drinking and were listing
them as "drunk drivers" I felt it was my duty to inform my fellow citizens of the deceit.
Q: A main goal of R.I.D.L. is to repeal the .08 BAC laws. What would be an appropriate law your opinion?
.08 BAC laws have been mandated to states by the federal government through TEA-21 under the threat of losing highway funds if they are not
passed. This is a blatant violation of the constitution of the United States. Our number one goal and main focus is to repeal this requirement.
The .08 BAC laws are "per se" laws. That means that you are guilty because a machine says you have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. No
proof of impairment is required. You have no defense whatsoever. Per se laws should be illegal at all BAC levels. The government should have to prove
impairment. In addition, we believe that the federal government is violating the constitution of the United States by requiring states to pass .08 BAC
laws. An acceptable level of BAC should be determined at the state level, not the federal level. MADD lobbied for years at the state level to pass
.08. They had very little success. It was clear the states did not want to lower their BAC levels to .08. So MADD went to the federal government to
force the states to do what MADD wanted.
An appropriate law? In my opinion an appropriate law would be to fine MADD for violating their 501(c)(3) stipulation that disallows them from lobbying
congress and ban them from further activities in that regard.
Q: Another main goal of R.I.D.L. is in countering some of the statistics of MADD and NHTSA, such as "17,970 people were killed by drunk
drivers in 2002." Can you walk us through your counter findings? What other stats are currently being manipulated in your opinion?
NHTSA has a variable in their database called DRUNK_DR. In their user guide it is defined as "the number of drunk drivers in an accident".
This is the variable they use to come up with their "alcohol-related" figure. We have proven that NHTSA increments this variable whenever ANYONE in
an accident, regardless of whether they were driving the vehicle, has had any measurable amount of alcohol or drugs in their system. It is also
incremented if a police officer says a person had been drinking even if later tests show them to be sober. This results in a figure a little over
NHTSA then employs a methodology called "Multiple Imputation" to add in "drunk drivers" for drivers who have no known BAC level. This is done to
drivers even though the police say a person was not drinking. So on the one hand they believe the police if they say a person WAS drinking, but they
do not believe the police if they say a person was not. The word "impute", by the way, means "to point a finger at". It shows NHTSA's true motive
is to attempt to "point the finger" at "drunk drivers" as being the cause of fatal accidents.
In addition, MADD has helped to develop extremely harsh penalties for repeat offenders claiming them to be the worst culprits in drunk driving
fatalities. However, we have a yet to be published report that shows that only 10% of drivers with BAC levels over .08 or who used drugs involved in
fatal accidents had a previous DUI.
MADD is now focusing on drivers who drink and have a child in the car with them. They claim that 2/3 of the children killed in fatal accidents that
involve alcohol are riding with the drunk driver. We have found this to be absolutely untrue. We also looked at drivers that had BAC levels of.08 or
.09 to evaluate how many of them were involved in an accident where a child riding with them was killed. We found only 8 across the entire country. We
feel that to criminalize a man who takes his son to the ball game and has two beers before driving home because of these 8 people is statistically and
Q: R.I.D.L. lists a number of other goals actually. Can you tell us the rationale behind each?
~Require medical diagnosis of alcoholism prior to harsh sentence requirements
The AMA claims alcoholism is a disease. That means it can only be diagnosed by a physician. Courts give DUI convictees a questionaire and then make
their own assessment. This is tantamount to practicing medicine without a license. In addition, all convictees are required to attend alcoholics
anonymous meetings. If a person is not an alcoholic, they should not be required to attend these meetings or be subjected to other forms of treatment.
Especially since people are forced to pay for this treatment that they may not need.
~Require graduated penalties for DUI convictions
We do not penalize someone who speeds at 25mph over the speed limit in the same way that we penalize someone going 5mph over the speed limit. It's
clear, and even MADD admits, that drivers with the higher BAC levels are much more dangerous. So we should employ graduated penalities that are less
severe for someone at a lower BAC level than for those at higher BAC levels.
~Encourage people to purchase and carry personal breathalyzers
While we do not think breathalyzers in general are accurate, in particular when it comes to women, people of other races and the elderly, we do think
that if people purchase and use personal breathalyzers that it levels the playing field. Most people today have no idea what their BAC level is. And
because MADD and NHTSA erroneously tell people it takes 6 to 8 drinks to get to .08, many people think they are ok to drive after 3 or 4. Those are
they people who are getting trapped.
~Require police to notify people of their right to a blood test after arrest
In many states a driver may request a blood test instead of or in addition to a breath test. Blood tests are often more accurate then breath tests and
may show a driver to actually be innocent where a breath test may prove them to be guilty (although there are some problems with the blood tests as
well). Often though, when a driver is pulled over, the police tell them that they are required to give a breath sample and do not inform them of their
right to a blood test instead or as well.
~Require courts to provide alternatives to AA to deal with problem drinkers
Some people want to quit drinking but are offended or turned off by AA's religious aspects. Today thought, AA is the only alternative offered by
courts. The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that Alcoholics Anonymous is a religious organization and courts imposing AA requirements on convictees is a
violation of separation of church and state.
~Require auto-expunge of DWI’s after seven years
Currently, a DUI conviction will remain on one's record forever. Often a court will impose stricter punishment on someone with a prior DUI even if
that prior offense was 10, 20, 30 or more years ago.
Q: What resistance, if any, have you encountered?
MADD, of course. MADD automatically calls anyone who opposes them drunks or says that they support drunk driving. This is absolutely false.
We do not, in any way, support drunk driving. But we feel that the lowered BAC levels are ineffective in battling drunk driving and do nothing but
criminalize average social drinkers.
Q: What successes and exposure have you had?
We have had several news paper and magazine stories written about us. Our members have written to their state and US representatives and
senators regarding this topic. Over the past year I have personally appeared on six radio talk shows across the country to discuss this topic. Next
week, we will be receiving some coverage on a major radio station in the Detroit area. Last year 20+ RIDL members logged on to MADD's discussion
forum to let them know that we exist and have come together to fight back. As expected, we were not welcomed with open arms. But the experience taught
us a great deal about MADD and how they operate.
RIDL showed a presence in Lansing, Michigan last summer when the legislature there was discussing lowering the BAC to .08. I had the opportunity to
debate the "expert" who said it takes 8 drinks to get to .08. Most of the senators were in agreement that he was wrong. Our efforts coupled with the
efforts of other groups resulted in Michigan including a sunset clause that our BAC level would automatically go back to .10 after 10 years if NHTSA
and MADD cannot prove that lowering the BAC results in lowered "alcohol-related" fatalities.
Q: Obviously, much of your initiative is directed at countering the efforts of MADD, one of the most widely supported and well liked
non-profit organizations in America. How difficult is it to stand in opposition to such a player?
It's extremely difficult on many levels. MADD has been around for 20 years and they are everywhere. They are in the churches, the schools,
the courthouses and in government. They have the advantage of having already developed powerful relationships and allies. They have a very large
income and budget, we, on the other hand, are on a "shoe-thread" budget and are still in start up mode at this time.
Q: Surely you sympathise with victims of drunk drivers; how do you answer criticism?
Absolutely I sympathize with victims of drunk drivers. MADD would have us believe that everyone who's been a victim or has lost a family
member automatically believes and supports all of MADD's tenets. But not everyone who's been a victim believes in punishing everyone who has one or
two drinks and drives a car. Our vice president watched his best friend get killed by a drunk driver before his eyes. Yet he does not support MADD.
Also, we believe that if the police focused their efforts on drivers with high BAC levels, drivers using drugs and drivers combining drugs and alcohol
that they would be far more effective in ridding the roadways of dangerous drunk drivers. It takes hours to process a drunk driver and when those
hours are spent on someone who's had one or two drinks and obviously poses no threat to society, one must wonder how many truly dangerous drunks are
We firmly believe that if someone is involved in an accident and an injury or death results, if it can be shown that the driver was drunk and that
they actually CAUSED the accident and it was a direct result of them being drunk, then we support strict punishment. However, many accidents that
happen would have happened regardless of the presence of alcohol. In those instances where the driver was not at fault, we do not agree that long jail
sentences and/or other harsh penalties be given to the driver.
Jeanne Pruett, Founder, President and CEO of R.I.D.L., has worked as a computer network engineer and consultant since 1987. She
specializes in data mining and reporting and has utilized these skills in many of the world's largest corporations including two of the big three
automakers. Ms. Pruett utilized these skills to evaluate the data in the FARS (Fatal Analysis Reporting System) database which is the same database
used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In February 2003, Ms. Pruett and three other core members incorporated R.I.D.L.
and opened the online website www.RIDL.us
in order to begin addressing the DUI issues and to offer moral support to
people who feel they have been unfairly caught in the DUI system. R.I.D.L. has seen tremendous growth in membership and interest in the industry over
the past year.
R.I.D.L.'s opposition, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), has grown into a powerful lobbying organization from it's grassroots beginnings in
1980. To date, M.A.D.D. boasts a hand in over 2,300 new DUI laws and over $50 million in annual funding.
Related AboveTopSecret.com Discussion:
Stop the M.A.D.D.ness!!!
[Edited on 2-4-2004 by SkepticOverlord]
[Edited on 4-22-2004 by Valhall]
[Edited on 4-22-2004 by Valhall]