drunk driving

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Just in time for New Years Eve, the police department in Janesville, Wisconsin, reportedly becomes the first U.S. agency to publicly identify repeat drunk drivers. People with five or more convictions are posted on the web site. The police want to lower it to four convictions.

Hat tip: Melissa Anunson.

Addendum: Hawaii may have been the first place where this idea was tried – and then suspended possibly because of a rogue Facebook page. Now some people want the program back.


A new fuel efficiency bill passed by the New York State Senate includes a provision for helping drivers think in “gallons per 1,000 miles” (GPM) instead of the traditional miles per gallon (MPG).

The idea is originally the brain child of Richard Larrick and Jack Soll who blogged about it earlier. Larrick and Soll’s original proposal called for gallons per 100 miles driven, but they fully endorse the New York Senate bill, which would require car dealers to put up a poster in their showrooms with a conversion chart showing consumers how to calculate GPM.

1. 1,000 miles is roughly what the average American drives in a month, so it is a meaningful number

2. It allows easy estimation of yearly consumption (multiply by 10, roughly)

3. It avoids the problem of seemingly small differences in efficiency that occurs when comparing “gallons per 100 miles”

In New York, the heavy lifting on the bill, the first of its kind in the U.S., was done by Senator Daniel Squadron. Reached by phone after the bill passed 35-26, Squadron said he was laughed at on the floor of the Senate by some opponents. “Folks had a difficult time telling why this is necessary,” he said. “They said this (gas mileage) information already exists, why would anyone need it? They can do the conversion themselves.”

Apparently, there are many assembly members who think New York state is full of Econs.

A similar bill exists in the state’s Assembly. Squadron said there is some momentum for it, but that lots of work still needs to be done. “We’re hopeful,” he said.

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Adding $73,000 to a bar tab to get drinkers’ attentions about the dangers of drunk driving.

Hat tip: Mirza Khan


Assorted links

1) Has a Nudge blog reader ever used gmail’s “undo send” option? It’s a five second cooling off period after sending an email. Better act fast. (Hat tip: Adam Singer)

2) A former judge wants to see more ignition-interlock devices. (Hat tip: Devorah Segal)

3) What does the status quo bias have to do with Keeping Up with the Joneses? Hint: One man continued to get up and go to work after he got laid off. (Hat tip: Free Exchange)

4) The IMF profiles Daniel Kahneman, who recounts this fascinating story: (Hat tip: Amol Agrawal)

An early event in Nazi-occupied Paris that he remembers vividly left a lasting impression because of varied shades of meaning and implications about human nature. “It must have been late 1941 or early 1942. Jews were required to wear the Star of David and to obey a 6 p.m. curfew. I had gone to play with a Christian friend and had stayed too late. I turned my brown sweater inside out to walk the few blocks home. As I was walking down an empty street, I saw a German soldier approaching. He was wearing the black uniform that I had been told to fear more than others—the one worn by specially recruited SS soldiers. As I came closer to him, trying to walk fast, I noticed that he was looking at me intently. Then he beckoned me over, picked me up, and hugged me. I was terrified that he would notice the star inside my sweater. He was speaking to me with great emotion, in German. When he put me down, he opened his wallet, showed me a picture of a boy, and gave me some money. I went home more certain than ever that my mother was right: people were endlessly complicated and interesting.”

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Last May, we noted the ongoing political fight between restaurateurs and anti-drunk driving advocates over special ignition locks that prevent people over a certain blood alcohol limit from driving a car. This squabble, which combined a legal mandate with a technological nudge, has continued into 2009, with drunk driving foes winning political support in Alaska, Colorado, Nebraska, Washington, and here in Illinois. Starting this year, the states are requiring that all motorists convicted on first-time drunk driving to have them installed in their cars. And they are not cheap, according to Newsweek.

Users must pay for the fist-sized devices, which in Illinois cost around $80 to install on dashboards and $80 a month to rent; there’s also a $30 monthly state fee. And they require periodic retesting while the car is running.

The fine print in some of these laws does give convicted drunk drivers a choice. Illinois drivers can opt-out of the ignition locks, but must give up driving privileges over the entire suspension period. Colorado drivers have a similar choice. They can install the devices, or take a longer suspension. To the Nudging community: Do these arrangements qualify the ignition lock laws as examples of libertarian paternalism? Or are they still just an old fashioned legal mandate?

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File this away in the unintended consequences vault: Drunk driving deaths in the U.S. spike following smoking ban laws.

Although an increased accident risk might seem surprising at first, two strands of literature on consumer behavior suggest potential explanations—smokers driving longer distances to a bordering jurisdiction that allows smoking in bars and smokers driving longer distances within their jurisdiction to bars that still allow smoking, perhaps through non-compliance or outdoor seating. We find evidence consistent with both explanations. The increased miles driven by drivers wishing to smoke and drink offsets any reduction in driving from smokers choosing to stay home following a ban, resulting in increased alcohol-related accidents.

The increases are between 10 and 19 percent. The paper, by Scott Adams and Chad Cotti, is here.

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Why do teachers think scaring teenagers is the best way to get their attention? Scare tactics are common for sex, crime, parenthood, and alcohol and drug abuse. For years, schools have tried to warn students about the dangers of drunk driving by hauling in smashed cars (or smashing them on school property), using fake blood and stage make-up to recreate the effects of accident injuries, or having a teacher dress in costume as the Grim Reaper and pull students out of class who have “died” in an auto accident. This week, El Camino High School in San Diego, California, is defending a routine that involved local cops delivering some tragic news.

Continue reading the post.

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Michael Rothschild of the University of Wisconsin School of Business has developed a creative nudge to reduce drunk driving using limousines. He came up with the idea, which is now an actual program in Wisconsin, after spending a lot of time in bars talking to young men.

Continue reading the post here.

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