Montana Politics

Editorials Under the Influence

It’s somewhat petty to point out this kind of sloppy editing and writing, but when it comes in the form of an op-ed from the newspaper, it’s hard to resist pointing out the obvious.

From today’s Independent Record editorial on decreasing DUIs in Montana:


And don’t even get me started on this paragraph:


Really? Law enforcement tested 78% of all drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in 2011? They must have missed me.

Comma issues, nonsensical writing, and your basic usage aside, the editorial makes almost no sense. After conceding that drivers are impaired at a BAC as low as .05, the editorial argues that we should focus instead on educating drivers.

How about we do both? After all, according to the NTSB, it would save lives:

The NTSB reports that at .05 BAC, some drivers begin having difficulties with depth perception and other visual functions.  At .07, cognitive abilities become impaired.

At .05 BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by 39 percent. At .08 BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by more than 100 percent.

The NTSB believes that if all 50 states changed their standard to .05, nearly 1,000 lives could be saved each year.

It’s certainly possible that there is an argument against decreasing the DUI threshold to .05, but this piece definitely doesn’t make it.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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  • There is indeed an excellent argument for not lowering the DUI BAC to .05 – it is not a very significant risk. For the sake of comparison – the stats offered argue that being at .08 – the legal limit currently – you are twice as likely to crash your car. If you are driving and talking on a cell phone, however, you are four times as likely to crash a car, according to the National Safety Council.

    At .05, your a mere one-third more likely to crash. That makes driving at .05 10 times safer than talking on a cell phone. And yet the fine for a DUI, at 600 dollars, is six times higher than talking on a cell phone, plus a day in jail, plus a six month license suspension (all minimum values, btw).

    Now, I generally dislike driving, and I certainly don’t drive drunk (or on the phone!). But as the penalties are so clearly disproportionate, it makes you wonder whether the constant howl of voices calling to raise the penalties for DUI (while rarely treating alcoholism as a treatable illness) is at this point more indicative of a moral prejudice against drinking than it is a safely mechanism.

    None of this, of course, justifies the IR’s consistent editorial mishaps.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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