Here is most of an article from The Times on 27th February 2007, concocted by Ben Webster their "Transport Correspondent" ….
Random breath tests to hit drink-drivers
Motorists face random breath testing under government plans to reduce the toll of deaths and serious injuries from drink driving, The Times has learnt. Ministers believe that giving the police the power to stop any driver, regardless of how they are driving, would be a powerful deterrent. Research has shown that many drivers exceed the alcohol limit because they believe that they can still drive safely and they know that there is little chance of being caught. At present, the police can stop only those drivers who have committed a moving traffic offence or those who they suspect have exceeded the limit.
The number of people killed in drink-drive crashes has risen by a fifth in the past seven years, from 400 in 1999 to 480 in 2005. Over the same period, the number of breath tests carried out by the police has fallen from 765,000 to 578,000. The Government's review of its road safety strategy, published yesterday, concluded: "Drink driving is still a major problem, with 17 per cent of road deaths occurring when someone was driving over the legal limit for alcohol."
It will propose a series of measures in a consultation paper later this year, including random breath testing. It will also consider placing a greater obligation on pub landlords, restaurant owners and service station operators not to allow their customers to drink and drive. Random breath testing has been credited with halving the drink-drive death rate in New South Wales, Australia, and saving more than 4,300 lives. Rob Gifford, the director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: "Giving police this power will make many people think they have a greater chance of being caught."
The Times illustrated its article with the following cartoon …
The blue line shows the number of roadside breath tests, and the red one shows the number of drink-driving fatalities.
All pretty clear, then?
Well no, sadly not.
The Times has been guilty of sycophancy, mindlessly parroting the official line about persecuting motorists (the official line being "if it saves just one life, it's worth it" - "it" being anything you like to dream up. Random breath tests, full-body searches, culling of the first-born, you name it. If it saves just one life ….).
It is also guilty of chartmanship. Here is the explanation from the formidable Professor Brignell of NumberWatch …
"The Times came up with the perfect illustration of how the media collude with the State to justify draconian legislation and curtailment of liberty. The graphic artist employed two of the main elements of chartmanship (suppressed zero and bizarre aspect ratio). To the uneducated eye it looks like a cut and dried case for oppressive action."
(The GOS says: "suppressed zero" means the bottom of the graph should be zero, but it ain't. The graph starts at 500 on the left-hand side and 400 on the right. And "bizarre aspect ratio" means that the artist has squashed the thing from left to right and stretched it wildly upwards, making the increase in fatalities look enormous when it's not. To that we'd like to add a third piece of deception - using a different scale on each side of the graph. That might be OK for statisticians, but it confuses the hell out of us!)
"But here is the same fatalities chart without the chartmanship …
An experienced experimentalist would conjecture that it represents a constant with added random noise. Even the most innumerate bigot would not offer this as evidence for the most innocuous of laws. Yet it is essentially exactly the same graph.
No doubt there is further dubiety in the original data. What is meant by drink-drive fatalities? Do they include cases where an entirely blameless party subsequently fails a test? At this point activists would be offering accusations of condoning child murder etc. When reason fails, appeal to emotion. It is perhaps fair enough to say that such an individual took the risk and must accept the punishment, but that is quite a different matter from including the case in data purporting to establish causality. Given the track record of the authorities, it would be entirely reasonable to expect various further fiddles.
Random breath tests are tantamount to wrongful arrest, a deprivation of liberty without justification. It has long been illegal in our society. Once random arrest creeps in for one circumstance, it is easy to add it in for others. Police suddenly have the right to make people queue at road blocks for hours while they process them. You would no longer need any laws to apprehend people. You could stop them for wearing the wrong football favours or political rosettes - "it's purely random, mate!"
That is how free societies come to an end. Death by a thousand small and entirely reasonable cuts."
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