Someone Missed the Memo.

While scooting around the internet looking for a decent picture of a gavel for another post we are writing, we came upon a gavel featured prominently in a poster. The poster is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and is part of promotional material groups and jurisdictions can use to raise awareness, educate, and fight driving under the influence.

Before we go any further, we want to say that we hate – absolutely hate – people that drive under the influence. In our opinion, the fines and penalties aren’t enough, especially when there is an accident and even more when there is an injury or death of an innocent person. In 2011 a teen driving under the influence struck a pole that killed his 17 year old passenger in our little town of Satellite Beach. Ironically, the crash was less than 100 feet where two Satellite Beach Police officers, Sergeant E. Ernest Hartmann and Officer Philip Jeffrey Flagg, were struck and killed during a traffic stop by a drunk driver in 1992. Driving under the influence touches us all in many ways. It’s wrong. Period. That being said, we don’t want anyone to think this is a post on “drunk driving laws.”

Which brings us back to the promotional materials offered by the NHTSA. This is the poster that caught our eye:

Cool, huh?

Only one problem: it isn’t true. Someone missed the memo telling judges to make arrests for DUI a resulting conviction 100% of the time.

According to Florida DMV records there were 33,625 DUI convictions in Florida in 2011. Of the 55,722 DUI tickets issued in Florida in 2011….

That’s a 60.3% conviction rate which means roughly 2 out of every 5 people cited for DUI are not convicted of that offense. That’s not even close to “being extinct.” Other states have roughly the same percentage of convictions.

We realize there is hyperbole in most advertising campaigns. When a fast food joint says they serve the “best hamburgers in the world!” there is a bit of “puffery” in their statement.

Saying “the days of beating a drunk driving arrest have been ruled extinct” isn’t puffery – it is an outright lie.

What we would like to know is “why lie?”

There are other posters in the promotional materials that we think are very good. For example, one poster has a generic “booking photo” of a man holding an identification sign that says:

Most employers understand you missing work because you’re sick. Missing work because you’re in jail, that, they’re not so good with.

A second poster has another generic booking poster of a woman holding an identification sign which reads:

Drive home drunk and this could be the last time you pee in private for 1 to 6 years.

That is just good, thought provoking, accurate messages conveyed in a clever way.

If you think that we are making too much of this, you may be right, but we believe that once people see a poster or information from any source that is obviously not true, they have a tendency to dismiss other claims and information from the same campaign. The thought process is “if they lied about something like this, what else is a lie?” Or “what in this campaign is true?”

We realize there is a bit of “tin hat conspiracy” here, but we really wonder if the government lies about something that is so trivial, (the conviction rate, not drunk driving itself) what else are they lying about?

We don’t know, but we shudder to think what it could be.

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