Imagine living in a house where you are allowed to live in its rooms, but you aren't allowed to use the hallways. This is how critics described Israel's 2000 offer to the Palestinians that would hand over parts of the West Bank and Gaza but would not withdraw police that would keep Palestinians from using connecting roads.
In West Virginia, the government has enacted a DUI policy that is just as unrealistic as Israel's proposal. There is no excuse for drunk driving, but the state continues to increase the "rooms" for drinking and expect drinkers to magically sober up before using the policed "hallways."
Literally, the state has no problem granting more bar licenses, yet it doesn't ask, "Without public transportation, how can we expect these drinkers won't turn to impaired driving?" Additionally, as if alcohol weren't enough to lure potential drunk drivers, the state has allowed another addiction into the bars - gambling in the form of video poker.
However, these factors are not addressed in the 2013 Governor's Highway Safety Program Annual Report. The report includes the DUI policy consisting of the overall system of programs including actions, regulatory measures, laws and funding priorities. The programs are carried out by policy subgroups including the Sustained DUI Enforcement Plan and the Commission on Drunk Driving Prevention.
Programs can be measured by inputs including funding, number of officers, number of Breathalyzers and other resources. Programs also can be measured by outputs, such as the number of DUI arrests. Finally, there is the policy outcome. This is the most important measure because it evaluates the overall success of the DUI policy.
Using input measures should almost always be avoided, yet it can be argued that nearly all measures of the state's policy are inputs. The report also includes the number of DUI arrests and accidents, but these can't be considered outputs of the prevention programs. These data are only correlations and one of the fundamentals of statistics is that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. By focusing on inputs and generating no legitimate output measures, policy experts would consider West Virginia's DUI policy a textbook example of how not to craft policy.
Policy experts often quote economist J.B. Say, who coined the term "entrepreneur." Say didn't mean a businessman; Say meant a person who "shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield." The state's DUI policy needs to follow Say's recommendation by stopping emphasis on inputs.
If we return to the Israeli-Palestinian analogy, it can help us apply Say's thinking. One higher productive program is partially in place. Many counties offer shuttle services for senior citizens. Each county could offer a similar program for drinkers. Unlike existing programs, the transit system could be measured in terms of inputs, outputs and its impact on the policy outcome. Funding such transportation requires reallocating money from less effective programs. This should include cutting police budgets, which offer no scientific evidence of directly preventing drunk driving.
It's time to innovate the prevention of drunk driving. We can begin by shifting funds to results-measurable programs from the archaic game of cops and robbers where police wait until drunk drivers are already on the roads.