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Alcohol breath tests are often unreliable (nytimes.com)
324 points by pseudolus 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 299 comments

I was selected for jury duty on a DUI case. Interestingly, there was also a lawyer selected. After hearing the case we were all moved to a room to deliberate.

After electing the lawyer as foreman, we proceeded with a preliminary vote on how we felt about the case presented. Only two people voted not-guilty, me and the lawyer. I discovered that the average person on a jury has a great deal of trouble with evidence. It was really quite troubling. For example, one person said “I’m a parent and so I vote guilty because I’m really against drunk driving.”, what sort of reasoning is that?

In the end, we acquitted the defendant. She was arrested after pulling out of a bar’s parking lot (because she spun her tires on the gravel as she pulled onto the street ??). The arresting officer took her downtown to be tested. She passed the videoed sobriety test there (walking a triangle marked path backwards while counting or saying the alphabet, etc.) In the jury room we all found the test quite difficult when we tried it, she did it perfectly.

She blew right on the line, .08 if I recall, but it was one hour after leaving the bar before she took the test. So her blood alcohol could have been higher or lower when she was arrested depending on the timing of her last drink. The lab tech was unable to describe the accuracy of the machine and clearly had a pat description of the subject taking the test that was designed to validate their guilt. Likewise the arresting officer wasn’t very believable and had his Mom in the car with him (?).

I was on a murder trial about 15 years ago. So many people tried to get out of it by telling the judge "I can't be impartial because I don't like guns".

Every time, the judge said "so are you telling me you would convict someone of murder, that you don't think murdered anyone, just because you don't like guns?" Most people said no. Some would squirm and get squirrely and the judge would follow up with "you would ruin an innocent person's life just because you don't like guns?"

No one said yes, despite them obviously wanting to. She did a good job of calling them on their bullshit.

That was 15 years ago. As polarized as the US is today, I have a feeling that many people would ruin an innocent person's life over ideological differences, though few would admit an intent to do so when questioned directly in public. We see many politically motivated firings/forced resignations these days, for example, as a part of "cancel culture" [1]. Depending on the person's financial stability, being fired may well ruin their life.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/us/politics/obama-woke-ca...

Cancel culture seems like a huge outlet for sadists and/or teenagers and young adults who never had anyone else depending on them for shelter and food.

Cancel culture lets everyone feel like a Clint Eastwood vigilante -- enjoy the sadistic pleasure of torturing someone while also feeling like you're the good guy.

Oh man, mine was worse. After the first person got off for saying ”I can’t be impartial because I don’t like cops because (shaggy dog story), but I also hate Mexicans like the defendant because (another shaggy dog story).”, everyone took it as the green light to make up wild shit to get out of selection. That ended up being the most asinine two days of jury selection I’ve ever been apart of.

In England we solve this problem by enumerating the allowable reasons upfront.

- You know the defendant.

- You know the victim or one of the witnesses.

- You know someone in the court room such as the lawyers, judge, etc.

- You have close family in the police service or prosecution service.

- The trial would cause you to serve for more than 2 weeks and you have a mitigating personal circumstance such as being a carer for someone.

Also lawyers are not allowed to question or reject jurors unless they think they are violating a rule.

What you described, with "what sort of reasoning is that?" is the mechanism by which marketers (especially those marketing politics) use to steer simple minded people with. Unfortunately, most people are simple minded and are unable to separate their emotions from reason.

I think the generous interpretation of the explanation given by the parent who hates drunk driving is that they support rigorous enforcement of DUI laws, so since there is no dispute that the defendent had been drinking and was close if not over the limit, they support a guilty verdict. It may not be a strict application of the criteria jurors are instructed to use, but it might be an entirely rational act given another goal the juror might have such as "Minimize the risk that one of my children are killed by a drunk driver."

So maybe the lesson of this anecdote is not people are 'simple minded' (read: stupid), but that people are not computers and bring a complex bundle of conscious and unconscious motivations to every situation that will influence their decisions.

I'm sorry, but if you cannot recognize the fact that (as is human nature) you're bringing in a bundle of unconscious motivations, but make a conscious effort to look past your emotions and evaluate the facts, then you are "simple minded."

I'm not saying you're stupid unless you're robot tier 100% impartial, but if you're just letting your gut feeling take you all the way, then yes, you are.

You do have a point if, as stated, it was proven that the driver was indeed driving drunk, but just couldn't be proven to be over the limit, in which case the juror abused her position to enforce what she thought the law should be rather than what it actually was (but rationally so).

You know, though, we train and incentivize people to be this way. For getting a job, we privilege interviews over, say, a written test. We conduct trials live, instead of collecting a series of documents related to a case and letting all the stakeholders consider them asynchronously. We've decided that timeliness is more important in many, if not most, interactions than critical thought. Personally, I'm slow. I've noticed that if asked to answer a question, I give a worse answer than average immediately, an above average answer in 5 minutes, and a much better answer than average in 15. This is reflected in my relative lack of success socially and professionally. The ones who do well are generally able to give an above average answer instantly, even if their answer quality does not improve when they're given more time to produce it. Any reasonably intelligent person will see that developing critical thinking skills is only critical after one's developed their intuition, and behaves as such.

Obviously this isn't the best situation.

Yes, "zero tolerance" is a simple-minded ethic, but I think we all have ZT topics, whether it's Jeffrey Lebowski and The Eagles, me and olives, or police and sass. They go by other names, such as "red flags," "dealbreakers," and so on.

It sucks that in the gun/murder example it would ruin someone's life, and I would advise them to be more thoughtful if I could, but there's no accounting for taste.

Psychology seems to point out that we all make emotional decisions first and then rationalize them. The danger is that everybody is convinced their decision is rational.

I don't know if the non-reproducability crises has hit these studies

Personally I believe (as many do) that there are many kinds of "intelligence" and the ability to make (relatively) rational decisions is, like all forms of intelligence, on a spectrum. I'd argue that overall awareness, critical thinking skills and capacity for cognitive dissonance are all crucial factors in an individual's ability to make rational decisions. Also extremely important in my opinion is an individual's degree of individuality. As social creatures human beings are incredible susceptible to groupthink - giving added credence to ideas and concepts based on nothing but the fact that an idea or a concept is widely believed by others. Susceptibility to groupthink is absolutely fatal when it comes to making rational decisions.

> I'd argue that overall awareness...are all crucial factors in an individual's ability to make rational decisions

One thing that stood out to me from Daniel Khaneman's work was that he eventually noticed that he, even as a researcher at the forefront of cognitive bias research, was unable to effectively identify those biases on a regular basis in his own decisions. He seemed to believe our best hope is that others would be able to identify them in us, but that we are almost hopeless to be that self-aware.

We all lie. We are all hypocritical.

There seems to be a threshold upon which someone is deemed a lier, hypocrite or simple minded.

That we all do something doesn't mean that we all do it to the same degree.

For some reason when talking about intelligence, people are uncomfortable with some being better endowed than others. I've noted that the people who are most uncomfortable with this reality are many times hyper aware of the difference in physical endowment between different individuals.

> people are uncomfortable with some being better endowed than others

I've always wondered if this was because intelligence is almost considered a species-defining trait. It's often looked at as the "great equalizer" in achievement. It's a tough pill to swallow to acknowledge those differences in attainment may be, at least in part, due to unassailable differences in ability.

I may be missing your connection here but I wasn't referring to "rational" as a proxy for intelligence.

What i was referring to was the fact that our decisions originate in our emotional centers of our brain without our conscious awareness only to be justified after the fact by our "rational" mind

Sort of.

We have system one and system two thinking.

We all have system one. Some people have system two to a greater or lesser extent.

It's a lot more complicated than 'decisions originate in our emotional centers... only justified... by our rational mind'

Yes, to a degree that happens, but it's more than that or people wouldn't think or deliberate points in highly analytical manners.

Your post sounds like someone who reads Dan Ariely. Personally, I prefer more nuanced authors such as Kahneman.

I'm not familiar with Ariely. I'll have to look into his writing. I do know some of Kahneman's work has been questioned due to reproducability issues.

I was actually drawing from Kahneman's (layman's) book. Specifically, he says, "System 1 is the hero of this book. I describe System 1 as effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit and deliberate choices of System 2."

Granted, there's more nuance than the space in a forum response can provide but I've always liked his elephant and rider analogy. The rider (System 2) thinks they are the one directing their movement (and they do to some extent at least) but the bulk of the control is really the elephant (System 1)

Someone said: > Unfortunately, most people are simple minded and are unable to separate their emotions from reason

To which you answered: > Psychology seems to point out that we all make emotional decisions first and then rationalize them

You are saying 'we all make emotional decisions first and then rationalize them'.

No we don't do it all equally.

Yes, system one is active in all of us. It's emotional.

System two, the 'rational' part, is activated on effort and really only for people above a certain intelligence level.

People who are, for example, below 70 in IQ just can't think at a level of abstraction necessary to understand that there is a system one and system two.

They are mostly dealing almost exclusively in system one.

Some people manage to deal in system 2 much more. Generally, the smarter, the more they deal with that.

I'm taking issue with saying 'we all' do it this way. Because that is clearly not true, given how some people solve problems using system 2 and others can't, they are simple minded. It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's there.

>really only for people above a certain intelligence level

What are you basing the claim that System 2 is only open to people above a certain intelligence threshold level on? That is certainly not one of the takeaways I had from Kahnemans work

> Some people manage to deal in system 2 much more. Generally, the smarter, the more they deal with that.

I think if you re-read Kahneman, you'll see he is actually in disagreement with this. He even states that he is unable to effectively guard against his System 1 biases. This is coming from a Nobel laureate at the forefront of the field. He certainly qualifies to be in the "smarter" category of humans and if anyone should be able to thwart System 1, I'd think it would be him.

> I'm taking issue with saying 'we all' do it this way.

The fact that we all do this is precisely the point of Kahneman's work that I relied on to make the claim. I wouldn't be surprised if there's degrees to the extent that it happens, but it's interesting to me that you think that degree hinges on someone's IQ. Is there any data to back up this hypothesis? It seems like there's a conflation of ideas here. I don't disagree that people have differing abilities of analytical ability. But this does not necessarily mean that higher levels of analytical ability negate the claim from Kahneman that our decisions are rooted in our emotional centers. This two points are not mutually exclusive. There appears to be at least some study into this:

"One psychologist, Keith Stanovich, draws a distinction between two parts of System 2. One deals with slow and effortful thinking and demanding computation. Some people are better than others in this task, they are the individuals work cell [sic] in intelligence tests and are able to switch quickly and efficiently from one task to another. Yet such high intelligence does not make people immune to biases. Another ability is involved, what that psychologist labelled rationality and what Kahneman terms being engaged, which is distinct from intelligence as such."

The argument you're making comes across as, "Yeah, of course those people are irrational and biased. But smart people are different." In my opinion, this is exactly the wrong take-away from Kahneman's work and it potentially opens one up to being even more biased. It reminds me of a conversation with magicians where they felt like scientists and PhDs are actually easier to fool because they were smart enough to rationalize any justification for an illusion (and believe it wholeheartedly) simply because they weren't as self-aware of their own fallibility. So if you were willing to modify the stance that "smart people are above these biases" to "smart are more likely to erroneously think they are above these biases" that might be closer to the mark although I have no idea if studies have confirmed that.

Did you actually read the book? You say things that seem odd for someone who read the book cover to cover. I know a lot of people read a few pages or the intro... but not the whole thing.

Your painting a false dichotomy and mischaracterizing my arguments to do so.

I never said: "Yeah, of course those people are irrational and biased. But smart people are different."

I never said smart people are above biases. And of course smart people can justify bias more. These aren't facts that contradict ANYTHING I said. You are working with black and white. I'm working in greys.

The fact that you are painting my position as a scare crow makes me feel this is not dialectics but debate, you want to 'beat me'. I will post what I actually did say to so that your mischaracterization can stand out for what it is:

"Sort of. We have system one and system two thinking.

We all have system one. Some people have system two to a greater or lesser extent.

It's a lot more complicated than 'decisions originate in our emotional centers... only justified... by our rational mind'

Yes, to a degree that happens, but it's more than that or people wouldn't think or deliberate points in highly analytical manners."

In his book he says we all have system 1. He says it's the star. He says he can't overcome his own biases. But NONE of that argues against my point:

"We all lie. We are all hypocritical. There seems to be a threshold upon which someone is deemed a lier, hypocrite or simple minded.

That we all do something doesn't mean that we all do it to the same degree.

For some reason when talking about intelligence, people are uncomfortable with some being better endowed than others. I've noted that the people who are most uncomfortable with this reality are many times hyper aware of the difference in physical endowment between different individuals."

Yes, I've read the book cover to cover, most recently about three months ago. I actually try to read it every few years or so just to remind myself that we (especially myself) aren't as rational as we think. And with all due respect, I got the same impression about you referencing Kahneman but obviously drawing very different points from him and it's hard for me to tell where your conclusions tie into his because you haven't used any direct quotes or citations. But maybe our differing conclusions are just our own biases showing :)

I was trying to be deliberately careful to word my responses to not make a personal attack but rather focus on the ideas you are portraying, and even then to make it clear that it's based on my interpretation of your ideas and leaving room for understanding that you may mean something different. I'm sorry if it came across differently.

I am not trying to 'win an online argument', I was probing hoping to get greater insight into your position and, just as important, gain a better understanding of what your claim was based upon. To this extent, it seems to be based mainly on your own opinion as you didn't really point to any sources or professional opinion other than a vague aside to Kahneman. There's nothing wrong with that I suppose, but it doesn't really make for a strong or particularly interesting dialogue.

I don't think I was creating a false dichotomy. If anything, I was doing the opposite by pointing out that our System 1 and 2 minds work in tandem. My previous post conceded that I wouldn't be surprised if the extent of biases on an individual level land on a spectrum, so I wouldn't characterize my position as "black or white". I certainly don't think people fall into classes of either "biased" or "rational", especially not based on IQ. Overall, I feel like you maybe missing the point from my original post; it wasn't about lying or about intelligence, it was about our own biases leading us think we are exceptionally rational when we are actually deeply emotionally driven beings. Similar to your statement about intelligence, this is something difficult for some to accept. This "irrationality" (for a lack of a better word) is regardless of IQ, as quoted above. I wasn't deliberately creating a straw man; I was just rephrasing what I thought your position was as an attempt of active listening. Bringing up intelligence comes across as apropos of nothing, which is probably why the conversation got derailed. It felt like the conversation was on two different tracks, with me trying to point to our emotional decisions often being misinterpreted as rational choice and you redirecting the conversation to intelligence which didn't seem particularly relevant. I kept the conversation going on the assumption that maybe I was missing your connection but after all this back and forth, it's not really any clearer. I'll try to paraphrase below, not to prove I'm "right" but to illuminate how the conversation came across to me. It certainly felt like we were having two different conversations:

ME: People think we're more rational than they are, when in reality their decisions are rooted in emotions they aren't aware of

YOU: We're all liars to an extent. It's hard for people to accept there's a spectrum of intelligence

ME: Granted. But intelligence and biases are two separate issues that don't seem to be correlated. I don't understand the connection

YOU: It's very nuanced. See Kahneman

ME: [Quoting Kahneman] It seems like he supports the idea that we are biased by our emotions and that they are the root of our 'rational' decisions

YOU: Yes, we're all biased. But we all have different levels of analytical ability

ME: Some researchers [like this one], indicate analytical ability is not related to our level of System 1 bias

YOU: Things aren't so black and white. See what I stated before

I'll go along with this re-stating people's posts to get to the bottom of it:

Someone Else: Laments 'simple minded' for literally putting innocent people in jail for the inability to follow very simple logical constructs and basing their decision making (deliberate decision making, not spur of the moment) COMPLETELY on emotion without even realizing it. No system 2 justification. Just emotion.

Please note: re-read the original comments you are answering to, they are the basis of this conversation and everything being said SHOULD relate to this, as it is a subcomment:

bumby: > "Psychology seems to point out that we all make emotional decisions first and then rationalize them. The danger is that everybody is convinced their decision is rational."

Notice: "Emotional" not bias. Also notice how you are basically taking issue with the concept that SOME people operate on a PURELY emotional basis. Or what some call, a 'simple minded' person.

4ntonius8lock: Everyone has system 1. Some people use system 2. There's a spectrum, at some point of not using system 2 you get branded with the term 'simple minded'. While system 2 usage is optional, some people just don't have the intelligence to access it. It's hard for people to accept there's a spectrum of intelligence and at some point, many people just can't process higher level concepts.

bumby: Granted. But intelligence and biases are two separate issues that don't seem to be correlated. I don't understand the connection

Here you are moving away from the original point which was PURELY EMOTIONAL decision making WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING logical constructs. Why would you move away from the original point and toward 'biases'? Notice, this is the first time the term was brought up. I think we agree that 'bias' is more complex than simple system 1. Biases, when deeply ingrained/cultural are part of system 1 and system 2. People will think deeply about race when they are racist, bringing up everything in their mind. It seems that by moving from emotion to bias you are moving the goal posts.

4ntonius8lock: Disagrees with this point at the level of talking about systems. It's very nuanced. Yes everybody has system 1. Yes it is the star of the show. However, intelligent people can access system 2 in ways that non intelligent just can't. Maybe the IQ example should have been 40 as the example, which is the lower end of intelligence for those with mental retardation - Basically, I was proving that intelligence is correlated to our ability to access system 2, since at the lowest end of the spectrum of intelligence people are mostly purely emotional creatures, literally having the intelligence of little children who cannot even conceptualize at the high level needed to understand these concepts we are discussing.

bumby: [Quoting Kahneman] It seems like he supports the idea that we are biased by our emotions and that they are the root of our 'rational' decisions

4ntonius8lock: Yes, we all use system 1. But we all have different levels of analytical ability (access to system 2, which is what moves us away from 'simple minded', the original point)

bumby: Some researchers [like this one], indicate analytical ability is not related to our level of System 1 bias

4ntonius8lock: Yes, intelligent people can JUSTIFY MORE with their system 2, which they can access via intelligence. That doesn't mean they operate at the same level of system 1/system 2.

Notice the original post: that some people operate at such basic levels of emotion without logical feedback loops that they put people in jail in completely illogical manners.

My point is: some people have little to no access to system 2. These people at a certain threshold are considered simple minded in an accurate fashion. Yes, we all use system 1 mostly. Just like we all lie. But not everyone lies the same amount, so not everyone is a liar. It's a spectrum and at some end, calling people 'simple minded' is fitting.

This is a logical construct that comes from the book, I don't have proof of it.

If you don't choose to believe that last point, that's perfectly acceptable.

But if you reject this observation, then you have to deal with another observation:

If people all operate at the same levels of system 1 and system 2 and if smart people actually use system 2 to 'justify their system 1' as you stated, then how come smart people get things done that non-smart people simply can't? How come they can figure things out? I mean, after all, they all make emotional decisions first and only justify it with system 2.

If they ALL operate on system one and just use system 2 to justify it ALL the time, why the difference in RESULTS?

I find it funny that people have such issues with talking about intelligence differences. Literally this whole thread is you taking issue with someone calling a group of people 'simple minded' for being completely emotional decision makers. You didn't deny it, but did something I've noticed people do when they are uncomfortable with a truth: minimize, redirect and trivialize. Not that I haven't done the same. We ALL operate on system 1. It's our ability to self analyse and reflect that allows the smarter among us to be more self aware and to better correct course. This is the whole point of the comment you were answering! I think you aren't remembering what this thread is a sub of.

Thank you for taking the time to clarify. The root of why we're talking past each other seems to be a disagreement on the operation of System 2. In a couple earlier posts, I stated that I thought the terms 'rational' and 'intelligence' were being conflated.

It seems like you are saying smart people are better able to guard against their biases because they have more access/capacity in their System 2 thinking. I disagree on this, and I think both Kahneman and Stanovich make it clear that equating (or correlating) System 2 to intelligence is a mistake. It feels like you may be making an unsubstantiated logical leap here to fit a model of the world that 'makes sense' but hasn't transitioned from hypothesis to theory. In the context of Kahneman's work, it comes across as a System 1 error to try and maintain coherence in a previously held worldview. Maybe I'm misinterpreting their work, but that's why I deliberately pointed out that I'm largely relying on a layman's understanding. I am genuinely interested (because it's a topic that I enjoy) if you have sources to back up this stance.

In regard to why I started using the term 'bias', it was mainly because Kahneman's work focuses largely on heuristics and biases that affect decisions. To speak about System 1 and System 2 hinders communication because it's generally only known to people familiar with his work. However, most people immediately understand what is meant when people say 'bias' or 'emotional decision'. It was probably bad wording on my part, but using 'emotional' was in response the earlier post because that was their choice of words to describe how people can't parse emotion from reason. I'm assuming if they were familiar with Kahneman's work, they would have chose more precise wording like "System 1" and "System 2". So the choice of words between 'emotion' or 'bias' was a bit clunky but meant to redirect the parent comment's sentiment into the verbiage of the academic work, not really an attempt of 'moving goalposts'. It was essentially the same topic (unless I misunderstood the parent comment's intent). The reason I responded is because I felt that comment missed one of the fundamental takeaways from Kahneman, namely that "simple minded" people are biased by their 'emotion' but smart people are not.

I think the key distinction in our opinions is that (to re-state your position), some 'simple-minded' people don't have access to System 2 (and thus can't avoid biases) because of the very nature of their lower intelligence. Psychologists specifically studied if intelligence is a discriminator between the level of bias in decisions and the conclusion was bias is independent of intelligence. To re-phrase one of my earlier comments, rational != intelligent. Or put another way, greater intelligence does not make you more rational or any less biased. The book Thinking Fast and Slow is rife with all kinds of examples of smart people doing otherwise irrational things as case studies.

Same to you. It's nice to be able to hash it out, even if we fundamentally disagree.

To be clear, I never said, nor do I believe: > "simple minded" people are biased by their 'emotion' but smart people are not > smart people are better able to guard against their biases

Let's stick to the topic. You keep using words with varying meanings as if they are interchangeable. Also context matters when using words.

Someone laments people making PURELY emotional decisions that are clearly illogical and thus send people to prison. (emotional thinking = system 1)

This is a lack of critical thinking (system 2)

We all fail to use critical thinking (one part of system 2) sometimes. As any characteristic in any group of individuals, there is variation, and some will use critical thinking more frequently than others.

At a certain low threshold of critical thinking, they are called 'simple minded'.

You say 'we are all like that'.

I contend that yes, we all fail to think critically sometimes. But some individuals will do so infrequently/not at all, because they are simply unable to grasp concepts. So yes, everyone does it, but no, not to the same degree. Just like everyone lies, some people are liers.

Is critical thinking and IQ correlated one for one? Absolutely not.

Do high IQ people use their IQ to justify non-critical thinking? Yes, yes they do.

But here's the crux: Critical thinking requires the understanding of concepts. The definition of intelligence, quite literally, is the ability to understand concepts.

I really don't have any studies that can prove that low intelligence can understand concepts. As it would literally break the definition of the words we are talking about. That's why I don't like the interchanging of words. It makes for people talking past each other.

There are specific words being used, with specific meanings in a specific context.

Change them, and the whole thing changes. 'Rational', 'bias', etc... were all introduced by you. They are vaguely related to the topic at hand. I was bringing Kanemans work into the fray based on the system 1 and system 2 concepts he describes. Just as someone talking about a Pavlovian response might talking purely about concepts of conditioning without any intention to conjure things like his interest with 'biomarkers'.

I completely understand Kaneman's point. It's valid. Just as it is valid to show that we all lie. We all cheat. We are all hypocritical sometimes. We all would steal (situational ethics).

It's part of the good side of post modernism, showing universality. But I find some people get lost in post modernism and make it a religion. If you say 'someone is a lier' they will smugly say 'we all lie'. As if frequency and intensity were not at play.

I'll try to re-phrase because I think we're circling back to the same argument.

My contention is not against admitting there is a gradient of IQ or G or whatever metric of intelligence is used. That seems fairly apparent, even if uncomfortable for some to admit.

What I'm claiming is that engaging System 2 is not dependent on your level of intelligence. Take an example of three people being tasked with determining the fuel needed to reach escape velocity of earth. One may reflexively say "10,000 kg" because they are using System 1. Another may try to use algebra and the third calculus. The last two may both use System 2 even though person two doesn't have the capacity to understand calculus. Utilizing System 2 is not a result of intelligence, it's the result of being engaged enough to slow down and use analytical thinking. Whether they can do this is dependent on their System 2 mind, whether they arrive at the right answer is the result of their intelligence. This is where it feels like terms are being conflated.

Point taken on using terms interchangeably and cavalierly; it was poor selection on my part. In a similar vein, there was a reason I stayed away from the term "critical thinking". In psychology, critical thinking is distinct from intelligence and both are distinct from rationality (at least in the way Stanovich uses rationality). We should be careful not to conflate these terms as well.

In short, I don't think "System 2" engagement is dependent on the ability to understand concepts, it has more to do with the ability to focus one's attention with deliberate effort. Just like I don't think System 1 thinking is correlated to intelligence thresholds. I revisited some of the texts and studies over the course of this conversation and I think they back this up.

You might not like the use of 'emotional thinking' vs 'critical thinking', but that's what this sub-thread is about. The introduction of words like rational was purely on you.

I agree system 2 is only activated on deliberate effort.

However effective use of critical thinking via system 2 has an additional requirement: intelligence.

Remember we have a topic: people being sent to jail, and emotional decision makers being called 'simple minded'. That's what you took issue with. That's what this thread is about.

If you honestly believe that someone with severe mental retardation has the same ability to engage critical thinking using system 2 in the context we are talking about (analyzing evidence as part of a jury) to the same level as someone with a higher IQ, then we will simply have to agree to disagree.

I already exposed why I believe this: critical thinking requires understanding concepts, intelligence is the ability to understand concepts... ergo, you need intelligence to engage in critical thinking.

OF COURSE intelligence won't make you think critically, that's obvious as I had originally stated, like the book, that system 2 is a deliberate process.

And remember, before you post more scarecrow arguments: no one said Critical thinking = intelligence. You keep fighting things you create. My point was extremely narrow and clear based on the clear and narrow context we are talking about.

I'd say the whole thing could be summed up at:

Simply minded emotional thinkers who don't use system 2 are causing harm.

Your post basically disagrees with this and says we all do it to the same degree.

I disagree with you for reasons.

My reasons don't change your perceptions.


> Simply minded emotional thinkers who don't use system 2 are causing harm. Your post basically disagrees with this and says we all do it to the same degree.

I never claimed people who rely on System 1 don't cause harm. I claimed that we all engage in System 1 thinking NOT that we all do it to the same degree. The entire intent of the original reply was to disagree with the idea that there are distinct classes of 'emotional' and 'rational' thinkers. You are reading into my point something that was never there and I'm not sure why.

>You keep bringing up intelligence

If you look, you were the one to bring up intelligence in your very first response and I've been trying to convey that this is a misunderstanding of my point. Intelligence and critical thinking are tangential and not what my original point was about. If you want to side with the OP, fine, just realize that appears to be an opinion that wasn't backed up with any research. To beat a dead horse, my follow-up point is that irrational decisions are made irrespective of intelligence. Going way back to my first reply to you, I think you keep mixing up rationality and intelligence. Stanovich came up with the terminology of System 1 and System 2 that you invoked and his research made it clear that System 2 thinking is not an intelligence-dependent trait. So it seems odd that you keep circling the wagons on this point.

> If you honestly believe that someone with severe mental retardation...

This is a straw man. Not only is it twisting my position but it's being hyperbolic.

> I disagree with you for reasons.

I can get behind your reasons and they seem plausible. It's just that the research seems to go against them. That's why I was really hoping you would back up your position with some academic opinion/research. Especially when the counterpoint is supported by research from two well-regarded psychologists, one of which is a Nobel Laureate and the other which is one of the most cited in his field, it's probably prudent to side with the existing research and not one's unfounded opinion.

If your point is that critical thinking is necessary to come to the right conclusions in court, there's no disagreement. If you feel that there are varying degrees of competency with regard to critical thinking, again there's no disagreement. That's not the point I was making which is why the conversation has been so hard for me to follow. Like I said before, it comes across as apropos of nothing like it's just a point you were just waiting for a chance to shoehorn into a conversation. At the very least, it doesn't seem to fit as a response to my original post and probably should have been posted in response to something else.

I guess what you are saying is:

We all have the same access to system 2.

Like everyone having access to start a car, everyone needs to put in effort to start their car, but someone with low intelligence is like someone who has a car that has 10hp... they will go slower than someone who has a car that has 1000hp. Both can start the car equally is what you are saying.

Fair enough.

I think my point is, below a certain IQ threshold, the HP is virtually 0, and can move little to no distance/speed. Therefore, it's as if it wasn't there. My point is an observation arrived at from the very meanings of the words intelligence/critical thinking, there's really no studies that can 'prove' a word has a meaning. It's simply an agreed upon sound that we associate with concepts.

BTW, the degree of what is done is all I ever meant to get at. Look at my very first reply to you. The word 'degree' is central to my answer.

Great (as in powerful) fallacies and strategies came out the gullibility and emotional weakness of the majority.

e.g every time someone yells "think about the [insert adjective here] children!" it's most likely a clear attempt to emotionally manipulate you, trick you into doing whatever the manipulator wants you to. Very few are capable to recognize and withstand emotional manipulation.

Where does that leave our democracy?

You might find this piece interesting if you haven't already come across it:


Consult the history of Athens for a number of illustrative examples.

And where is it headed?

> For example, one person said “I’m a parent and so I vote guilty because I’m really against drunk driving.”

Wow that is incredibly unsettling. Especially considering that a guilty verdict would mean thousands of dollars in fines and potentially someone spending years of their life in jail.

> I discovered that the average person on a jury has a great deal of trouble with evidence.

I am, sadly, increasingly convinced that trial by jury hinges on getting a single person on the jury who actually understands evidence and has the guts to stand his ground.

So many people simply are "You're in the defendant's chair. You're guilty."

It makes me want to cry.

> I discovered that the average person on a jury has a great deal of trouble with evidence. It was really quite troubling.

Trial by jury--it's far from perfect but I believe the best solution mankind has devised thus far

I would never want to be tried by a jury.

You really want your future to be decided by a group of people that are going to make preconceived judgements about you based on your facial hair and skin color?

Who are probably going to go home and watch The Real Housewives when the trial is over?

People whose conception of reality comes primarily from the tv shows they watch?


in my experience, the jury part of the criminal justice system works pretty well. I live in a city with a small population and lots of crime, so I serve on juries for quite a few felony cases.

to some extent, my fellow jurors have been more or less what you might expect. most of them cared a lot more about going home than the outcome of the actual case and didn't appear to have highly developed critical reasoning skills. at the same time, they were a lot more skeptical than you give them credit for.

in most of the cases I've been a juror for, it looked like the accused probably did commit the crime. but prosecutors are pretty good at making it look that way. in the end, one or two jurors who actually cared found a couple holes in the prosecution's case and persuaded everyone to return not guilty and go home. I have yet to be part of a jury that returned a guilty verdict.

once the judge makes up their mind, that's it; that's your outcome. but it only takes one juror to throw a serious wrench in the gears, and this usually seems to favor the defense.

I have been to federal prison. One of the biggest things that the exposure to such a wide variety of people taught me is that a lot of people are major skeptics and conspiracy believers.

That's why people like you have a moral obligation to not try to weasel your way out of jury duty. Have you ever served on a jury? It can actually be a good experience. What matters the most is not the jury really, is that your defense lawyer is competent.

Also the lawyers filter out engineers and other critical thinkers from the jury so that all that's left are people that think with emotion

> Also the lawyers filter out engineers and other critical thinkers

As an engineer, I have been on the receiving end of this over and over.

While the defense needs jury strikes, I really think that prosecutors should no longer get jury strikes.

If a prosecutor, with all his advantages, can't get the charge through a jury picked by a defense lawyer, he really doesn't have a case.

That makes a jury sound like a bad option, until you stop and think about what the other option is.

> until you stop and think about what the other option is.

You mean the system used in most of Europe? Seems to be working fine. Arguably even better than the US system.

Basically decisions by judges, none-to-little plea bargaining, none-to-little bail. You do have the right to appeal to several levels of court.

Not having a jury also makes court much less of a drama theater than in the US. Everyone is presenting evidence to a judge, not to random people off the street who have much less developed bullshit detectors and experience in interacting with lawyers and knowing what they are aiming to achieve with any given sentence.

> You mean the system used in most of Europe?

It is still too early to make a judgement about Europe. The US has had a democracy close to 231 years. Much of Europe except for the UK, Netherlands, and Switzerland was ruled by absolute monarchs for much of this period.

Alternatively, we're still stuck on the beta and they've learned from our mistakes.

Ah the Inquisitorial system that came out of the French revolution no thank - you a bit to open to abuse and technocratic for my British tastes

I have been on juries twice and I think there is a lot of room for improvement. In one case there was an expert witness that made claims about light during dusk which i was pretty sure was questionable based on my photography experience. But there is no way to challenge such statements if the defense lawyer doesn’t do it and even then it probably costs a lot of money to find an opposing expert witness. Most defendants won’t have that money.

As a juror you are supposed to judge only by what has been presented in court. But this leaves a lot of room for bullshit experts.

I think there need to be some nationwide standards about accuracy of different methods like alcohol tests, speed traps and especially forensics where I have read that a lot of completely false methods are being used to convict people. The judge should have the ability to call out such things based on established scientific evidence and inform the jury.

I'm pretty sure a judge can call an expert witness's bullshit, but that requires a judge to be an equal expert in that field, which is a terribly high standard.

Other options are also perfectly good legal systems (France, Germany etc)

So what reasons do you have for preferring an inquisitorial system?

What's the better option then? Judges have biases too. At least with a jury there's a chance of one person pointing out biases or at least balancing them

Too vague a compliment, as it doesn't mean that the details can't be tweaked (which they obviously are even among state laws).

For example, how do you feel about the parent in the OP's example convicting someone because she has children (being less interested in evidence)? Some people are logic-minded, others... well many people believe in astrology and all sorts of concepts that they believe apply day to day without any interest in cause and effect or other'system' rules. The law might be one of those things where less educated people will suffer understanding as systemic rules are being asked to be used as part of the reasoning process.

The devices can be good at determining if alcohol is in the blood. Maybe they aren't exact. But they can help keep drunk driving from being so dangerous.

Of course a particular person may perform better when drunk. The law just sets a number (0.02? 0.08 would be dead drunk in any state in the US) which doesn't prove a person is impaired or not. It just lets lawyers argue.

If the defendant had consumed the alcohol just before leaving the bar, their BAC would have been lower at the time they were driving than it would have been an hour later at the station. Thus, they may not have been "driving drunk".

On the other hand, if they had been drinking for some time and stopped just before leaving the bar, then their BAC would have been higher at the time they were driving than when tested at the station. Thus, they would have certainly been over the legal limit and thereby "driving drunk".

Yeah, in this case it wasn’t a blood test but a breathalyzer test, and the major concern was the time between arrest and testing—she might have been sobering up or she might have been absorbing the last drink and she was a few minutes from home. There was no evidence presented that would allow us to know.

0.08 might be too high a limit for sure, I hardly ever drink myself, but that’s the legal limit in Texas.

You’re mistaken — 0.08% is the legal limit in most of the US. And 0.08% corresponds to a moderate level of impairment. Certainly dangerous for driving, but nowhere near “dead drunk”.

> So her blood alcohol could have been higher or lower when she was arrested depending on the timing of her last drink.

I don't follow - it's not like she drank more on the way between the bar and the police station, is it?

Apparently it can take up to 2 hours after consumption for alcohol to enter your bloodstream https://www.driverseducationusa.com/resources/alcohol-absorp... so if she had a drink immediately before leaving presumably her BAC could be higher an hour later?

If she hadn't drunk anything a while before leaving, it'd likely be lower. If she'd had a drink immediately before leaving, it'd have been higher.

Maybe she ate a meal, then had a single sip of a friend's drink before walking out the door. The alcohol vapors in the mouth can cause breathalyzers to register high.

In college, I had a breathalyzer and had fun scaring my friends by aerating some vodka in my mouth right before blowing - I've registered 0.34% when my actual BAC was closer to 0.04%

If she had a drink right before leaving, the alcohol might not have made it into her bloodstream yet.

I really hope people remember this comment when they hear someone was previously convicted of DUI. Once you're convicted once the entire system works to ensure you get convicted with each subsequent encounter with the system.

> “I’m a parent and so I vote guilty because I’m really against drunk driving.”

"Jury of your peers" is not as good as it sounds.

I was recently called in for jury duty, as a Professor in the physical sciences - I'm rarely selected (although I love being on them.) The person next to me was an MD.

Well the question was asked of both of us, (paraphrasing): "is a lab report the end of the conversion for you?" The MD basically was a 'yeah, why would a lab tech lie?' (very true - having been in industry myself). However, I know how many ways something could yield poor results and must look at the whole picture.

Whilst it is true that lab techs are not paid well enough to lie. Lab techs are not paid well at all, and so this doesn't necessary attract the best of the best. I've seen folks operating instruments that they had zero training on (as it was assumed that they saw it in school - not a good assumption of late.) Eg: One team I was an auditor for, didn't realize that the instrument they were using had effectively two (2x) ON/OFF switches - and the detector was turned off. 2 years of data had to be rejected.

Now imagine a completely untrained cop with a black box, that's been bouncing around in their trunk - what could go wrong?... /s

I guess what I'm saying: field tests are highly suspect, and even lab tests need to be carefully considered - all of which requires a solid grasp on scientific/critical reasoning (which is in short supply.)

You reminded me of an interaction I had recently while getting my blood taken at a Quest office. To make small talk while I was sitting there in a chair waiting for the needle, I asked the tech if he had heard about Theranos or Elizabeth Holmes. He had not.

I explained that she ran a Silicon Valley startup that was trying shrink this little cubicle area we're in here down to the size of an ipad.

I thought he might identify with the difficulty if not absurdity of that mission. His response surprised me:

"Good idea."

"Well, actually, it turned out to be a giant fraud. She's been indicted and is awaiting trial."

"Not surprised. You know how much money this industry is worth? Big Blood isn't going to let that happen."

I let him focus on his work after that.

There was one time I went I for a physical from a "doc in a box". I was new in town and needed a physical to get some money for my HSA before a deadline.

I drank water before going in for my urine test. I never did a urine test... And remember vividly peeing in the waiting room as I left, thinking it's weird I didn't do a urine test. But I didn't care as it was through away results, I just needed a formed sign for my money.

Well, somehow I got results back for a urine test. When I questioned it... They said, nah no way its wrong... I did a test.

that could easily be fraud. you should report things like this to your insurance company.

Ya know - I agree with the Tech's first statement - it's a FANTASTIC idea. Too bad it's technically infeasible. really too bad that she lied about it over and over.

I'm not really surprised that he'd never heard, though. The story was much more popular in the startup/tech space than the medical space. I know a bunch of people working in molecular diagnostics who hadn't heard about it while it was happening - though they've all been incredibly fascinated and engaged by the recent book.

Were you surprised? The job is not that different in what is asked of you and what is given to you than any other unskilled work. We just have a tendency to think of doctors as smarter than auto mechanics when they both are pattern-matching repair jobs, and lab techs as more capable than CVS cashiers when they are both just routine operator jobs.

> field tests are highly suspect, and even lab tests need to be carefully considered - all of which requires a solid grasp on scientific/critical reasoning (which is in short supply.)

Similarly, I've heard stories from MDs about techs in pharmacies at hospitals not knowing enough to raise an eyebrow at an order for something off by 1000-fold (mg vs. µg). Patient almost gets a lethal dose of something because sleep deprived residents are running the show and incompetent / underpaid people are filling orders.

I almost died this way. When I was about 5 years old, I had pneumonia. I went to a doctor, they misplaced a decimal point in my weight, and prescribed me a 10x over dose. The nurse didn't bother to double check it, and just blindly gave me the shot. Then the second nurse, who somehow didn't know the first nurse had given me the shot, gave me a second shot, so I was 20x over dosed.

They called my parents a couple of hours later when they figured it out and told them to take me to a hospital immediately. I ended up in the hospital for a week.


Dimensional analysis and a basic understanding of metric prefixes. Again, this is just ass-u-me'd to be well understood by all.

Pharmacies are increasingly reliant on software to catch interactions. I wonder if the same is true for dosage

Yes, yes it is. I've worked on such software, in fact. Dosage calculators can, obviously, only work with the inputs they're given. Even when prompted to verify and re-verify data entry for critical things, most of the actual users are blanked out on auto pilot.

I've been involved in countless conversations with program/hospital system administration types (at _the_ largest hospital systems in the US) about all of the ways we might try to mitigate against these types of issues. These admin folks are clever, too, they know how to work _our_ reporting systems through sales and product people to CYA, as it were. We typically walk into these meetings under the guise of "training issues," but it's anything but... This software we're talking about is form fields, if we're being honest about this stuff, and the real issue is overworked and underpaid staff. If you say that, though, you're on the hook for potentially losing these massive contracts.

It's all very corporate, on every side, is the problem, as others are alluding.

> why would a lab tech lie?'

"'Stunning' Drug Lab Scandal Could Overturn 23,000 Convictions"

"She worked at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston for nearly a decade before her misconduct was exposed in 2012. She admitted to tampering with evidence, forging test results and lying about it. "


If you think that the Dookhan case is unique, here is another one: https://www.dothaneagle.com/news/crime_court/lab-owner-accus...

This time it's made-up paternity tests and made-up drug tests in custody cases. The lack of cross-checks in the judicial system is concerning, it absolutely invites corruption.

The worst part about this case was in the custody situations. Even if as a parent you prove the test was false, if they take your kid early enough and for long enough they still won't let you have your kid back. Even if you are totally innocent. And that time span is relatively short.

This woman must be firmly entrenched in her community in rural Alabama if she could get a contract with Dale County Human Services not long after she pled guilty to credit card fraud in 2013.

Just look at her photo! She is righteous, and her victims were all drug-taking adulterous noogoodniks. If the case goes to trial the jury will give her a hug, a bible and a year on probation.

Very true.

I was thinking more of third party labs. A lot of these services are outsourced due to costs / need.

For labs that are a part of the system - yeah, I definitely can see how a person working would feel the need to be a 'team' member and support their team. Sad but happens all the time.

In my city, where I was a criminal trial prosecutor for a few years, all lab work in criminal cases is done by the medical examiner's office, run by the county. The conflict of interest should be obvious but I don't even know whether the general scheme has ever been challenged.

Well, there's this.


"A mass dismissal of wrongful convictions ─ perhaps the biggest ever ─ unfolded in a Boston courthouse on Tuesday, as prosecutors in seven Massachusetts counties dropped more than 21,000 low-level drug cases tainted by the work of a rogue lab chemist."

I was given a breathalyzer test at a road block after admiting I had two bottles of beer with dinner about an hour before. The test came back with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 which is well below the legal impairment level. The officer asked me to sign a statement confirming the reading and the amount I had consumed, so that in the event that the calibration was disputed by someone they could call on me to testify in court. I agreed and was the 7th or 8th person on their list that had signed with results.

Did the officer ask you, or instruct you to sign the document? Such a situation lends itself to feel coercive, as the officer has already detained you for a search.

The officer did ask me to sign not order me, but it still left me with an un easy feeling. Once I got home I thought about it, and was dumb to comply because if I had been in an accident that document could have been used to either refuse or reduce my insurance, and possibly be used in civil action by the other party.

Yeah, I don't know if I would have done that myself. They were collecting evidence from you. It's like talking to a police officer: it's best to not - they can and will use what you say against you.

Legally, it's consensual. Morally, it's an order.

If anyone except a police officer made a similar request, they'd be guilty of brandishing a firearm and any contract (or agreement to have sex) would be invalid. But if you accede to a police officer's "request", when they have a legal right to kill you for any reason during the encounter, it's considered consent.

You need to get out of the city from time to time. I've done plenty of business where one or both parties were packing, yet no threat of violence, no sense of coercion.

I for one, am quite happy to live in places where it is not considered cool, necessary or culturally appropriate for anyone to carry around lethal weapons, on any kind of ordinary basis.

I'm happy to live in a rural place with virtually no crime, and a high enough trust between citizens that guns are really no big deal.

I for one am quite happy to live and work in places where exercising the constitutional right to bear arms is generally not infringed and where the culture around me generally accepts and sometimes encourages the exercise of that right.

You, and few more billions of people in the worlds decided that is "not considered cool, necessary or culturally appropriate for anyone to carry around lethal weapons".

Let's not forget it.

The situations are not comparable. If you and I meet, each with our guns, and you shoot me for no reason, you will be arrested for murder and go to jail. If a police officer does the same, the worst consequence he is likely to suffer is an administrative suspension with reinstated back pay.

That's not the point. Those people were "mere peasants" like you or I so while they possesses the tools to use deadly force they couldn't use them on flimsy pretexts and then have the system back them up. In those transactions you were on more or less equal footing. In any transaction with a cop there is an unspoken threat of state violence being used against you if you are not complaint enough.

You can be critical of the abuses of power that exist in the police force without resorting to hyperbole like "they have the legal right to kill you for any reason during the encounter." They most certainly do not legally have that right, and that's one reason it's reported on so heavily when people are shot by cops.

> and that's one reason it's reported on so heavily when people are shot by cops.

Is it though? I would say that the reason is that it is reported because the police are not expected to shoot you. As for legally being allowed to shoot you, there have been a lot of cases in the recent decades proving that point. For example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_Ridge and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Wichita_swatting

That's a funny way to do a validation study...

Sadly, that 'data' will be used in a manner (most likely) inconsistent with any rigorous scientific underpinnings - but passed to policy makers as such.

You're kind of leading up to the topic, so thought I would comment. The US concept of jury nullification is fascinating to me. That such a powerful tool exists, and that the prosecutor has so many aveneues to forbid it being discussed or used.

One particular example that bothers me a lot:

"One of the other jurors wrote a note to the judge informing on Kriho, and the latter was subsequently charged with and convicted of contempt of court for her actions, for intentionally serving on a jury with the intent to obstruct justice. " https://verdict.justia.com/2017/05/18/fresh-look-jury-nullif...

> so this doesn't necessary attract the best of the best

Reminds me of fingerprint analysis where the standards and interpretation is all over the map and it could be just done by an officer who says "yeah that matches".

> Eg: One team I was an auditor for, didn't realize that the instrument they were using had effectively two (2x) ON/OFF switches - and the detector was turned off. 2 years of data had to be rejected.

How is this kind of negligence legal?

One code base I inherited at a job had a unit test suit with no assert statements. No one verified that the tests would fail with a faulty implementation. It's the same kind of error. In the lab no one verified that detector would be able to detect.

As to forgetting switches, on lab equipment, especially custom built equipment it's sometimes not obvious, which switch is which.

Also as a student I worked in a lab where many experiments where built by one or two generations of students and then continued by others so those producing data. Working with an existing setup is like inheriting a code base. You never know what surprises await you.

The reason why the code failed to realize there was even an issue?...(in the case I mentioned earlier)

The software looked at the calibration data using linear best fit (standard stuff) and provided the r^2 was within the specified range - that instrument and the data was good to go.

Well, if you run your Standards{1,2,3,4,5} and all output "0.0". That is a straight (perfectly so) line.

They had no idea how to read the computer monitor and the real time data coming off the instrument. They had zero real training / understanding of even how the instrument worked.

I see this a lot still - people using an instrument without a great understanding of how the thing even works. Why? There's just no money/resources being spent to ensure correctness - self regulation is (and has been) all the rage for decades here in the US.

Honestly, I believe in open software - and this type of software NEEDS to be opened up. I can only imagine the horrors that will be found.

PS - regarding the actual switch. Agreed.

This instrument was of a poor UI. One switch was in the front, the other in the back.

Still, this was a regulated contract laboratory with cert's.

Upon discovery - they did perform corrective actions and such.

As for "in school" - oh yeah. It's a wild wild west sort of situation. Custom hardware (with who knows what thought being given) and software that someone wrote years ago (and having zero documentation and zero standard coding practices observed).

Many years ago I was briefly kicked out of school over a false positive on a small-town police department's lab test. I was able to prove that it was a false positive and get myself back into school through a complicated and ridiculous sequence of events, but I'll always wonder how many other people probably suffered much worse negative consequences due to the lab's negligence.

It sounds like you continued to be rarely selected :-)

So I take it the defense lawyer dismissed the MD offhand, but on your turn, the DA broke out into a sweat and dismissed you?

I really really really really wanted to be on that last one too. Especially when they asked, "does anyone have a problem with the police." I think I began to salivate. ;-)

I remember watching an anti-alcohol video in high school wherein they gave 4 or 5 people one drink after another and had them drive an obstacle course increasingly intoxicated.

All but one of them got worse with additional alcohol, but the last guy, who was probably a high-functioning alcoholic who drank daily, continued to drive faster and more precisely with each additional drink well past the legal limit until his skills collapsed catastrophically at around twice the legal limit.

So basically, I suspect it's hard to come up with a uniform standard here so they err excessively on the side of caution and use a limit where an otherwise teetotaler would be impaired. Finding out not even that is accurate is not encouraging.

Another anecdote of SCCA Solo 1 racers at a GoKart closed course;

0 drinks, average times

1 drink, better lines, quicker times

2 drinks, horrible lines, sloppy corners, slower times.

Also known as the "Ballmer Peak"


Especially since a conviction hurts people more than most car accidents.

I did the math once for the local area I was in ~10 years ago and found out your 10x more likely to be arrested for drinking and driving than you are to have an accident while drinking and driving.

I tend the interpret these numbers to mean that the system is fairly good at catching drunk drivers before they have an accident.

So the memory of that film has led me to propose my own absurd DUI sliding scale: If you are caught above at or above that low-end legal limit, you are sentenced to drive your car through an obstacle course filled with clearly marked landmines at the same level of intoxication at which you were caught. Make it a PPV event and it'd be straight out of the world of _Pennyworth_.

Cool as long as you do that for a hundred other offenses.

I’m not sure how that statistic leads you to that conclusion.

>I tend the interpret these numbers to mean that the system is fairly good at catching drunk drivers before they have an accident.

That doesn't mean it can't also be so draconian as to hurt many law abiding people.

At least in Norway these are only used as an indicator not evidence, they take the suspected drunk into custody and draw a blood test. If the test show no alcohol then the person is released.

None of these field tests are accurate, not for alcohol nor drugs.

In the US there are usually two separate offenses, one being driving intoxicated as evidenced by your actions and failing a field sobriety test. The other is being over the limit on BAC. There’s a third violation, refusing a blood or breathalyzer test, that results in immediate suspension of the license, but it’s not a felony. In some states like NY there’s also a misdemeanor, driving with ability impaired, for those with BAC between 0.04 and 0.08. In most states these are all prima facie evidence of a crime.

In some (many?) states, you can request a blood draw in lieu of field breathalyzer (without losing your license). It's usually the better option in that situation.

I think that’s right, that the only one you risk your license for is the one at the station.

Field sobriety tests are designed to make everybody fail and should always be declined.

Yeah, I've seen those tests on "cops". I drink maybe two bottles of beer in a year and I'm sure I would have failed some of those tests like saying the alphabet backwards!

Tests like the one to "Say the alphabet backwards" are not designed to test intoxication but to elicit a response similar to "I can't even do that sober". This type of reply can then be used as a confession.

A police officer explained to me that some of the other tests are using testing for things other than the obvious (for instance, even if you follow the pen, your eyes jump in a way that's a tell-tale sign of intoxication)

"Vertical nystagmus". Which is all well and good, but many people have that entirely apropos of alcohol consumption.

Where are you getting that idea? As far as I know, that’s the punchline of a common joke. I’ve never heard the claim that it’s actually the purpose of sobriety tests.

What would be the best response to that? Both "I cannot do that sober" and "I cannot do that drunk" sounds incriminating enough.

That's why I practice the alphabet backwards when I'm drunk.

It makes a good drinking game.

Lol is that a thing? Say the alphabet backwards?

Sure is.. Here is one that has been practising just that [1]. The cop even remarks on how she's never seen anyone do that!

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beNPsSRV_5U

Lol. That is from Reno 911, unfortunately it left out the last part which is awesome: https://youtu.be/D6VQDNIZH7U

All these people arguing over "recite the alphabet backwards" but AFAIK no actual, non-comedy-show police department uses that as a sobriety test.

Comments under this video claim that this scene is from comedy TV series "Reno 911".

That's from the TV show Reno 911.

> In the US there are usually two separate offenses, one being driving intoxicated as evidenced by your actions and failing a field sobriety test. The other is being over the limit on BAC.

Typically, they are one offense, which can be proven two different ways.

> There’s a third violation, refusing a blood or breathalyzer test, that results in immediate suspension of the license, but it’s not a felony.

In some states, it is an additional felony.

In most Australian states, refusing the breath test without a valid doctor's certificate or attempting to avoid the test area and getting pulled over on a side street will result in far higher penalties - including jail time. The fine can be up to $4000 to $6000 - far higher than if you were just DUI.

This is the same as most Australian states where failing a breathaliser results in leaving your car, handing over your keys and doing a blood test for a more accurate reading. You're fine to go if you're under; also the penalties vary on the reading so they need it to be fairly accurate.

I was under the impression that it was common knowledge that the breath test is unreliable and never relied on in court as evidence. You also can't rely on the self-test kits if you think you might be over.

Same thing in Finland. They might also drag your ass to a blood test if you refuse to do the breath test and they don't have anything else to do.

In the US, they typically have a judge on call to sign warrants for blood draws.

That's fixed in my state. If you do not consent to a blood draw (if you already refuse breathalyzer), then you forfeit your right to a motor vehicle license. You are not convicted of a crime, but you can't drive.

Just to be clear - the machines referenced in the article are the larger more precise machines at police stations rather than the field test units.

As an aside - I think geography/access to alternative transport needs to be taken into consideration, if you live in SF or NYC there is no excuse getting behind the wheel after a few drinks - if you live in west Texas or Montana these laws make it almost impossible to drink in a social setting legally

What has access to alternative transport got to do with whether you're safely able to operate a vehicle? The law isn't about how much you're inconvenienced it's about how intoxicated you are.

We know that not everyone is going to plan properly and in a few cases, even when one tries to properly plan it doesn't work out as planned. THese tend to put folks in a situation where they cannot get home from the bar without driving drunk. Not everywhere has any public transportation to speak of and if you live in a farming community, you might actually be too far to walk and have a dangerous walk on top of it all.

When faced with this - and the prospect that they'll have to walk back to the bar tomorrow or get a ride to fetch their car - folks are more likely to drive home, even if they know they really probably shouldn't. But hey, they sobered up a bit and ate a bit, so they really should be OK.

With affordable alternative transportation, not driving when you can't safely drive becomes an actual option, no matter how badly you planned.

I tend to think that both intoxication and sleep deprivation are bad enough that they always dominate the convenience angle. But it's not an unprecedented consideration. The safest speed is zero. Every mph allowed above that is a tradeoff between convenience and safety.

Normalization of deviance. When everyone else drives drunk it's no big deal if you do it, too.

It's easy to lose sight of the problem. The goal is not to catch drunk drivers, what we want is safe roads.

Well, once we have automatic driving cars, drinking/drunk driving simply won't matter.

It's one of those first derivative effects of automatic vehicles.

(edit: uh, seriously, -1's? How is this contentious at all? It's a matter of fact that a drunk person has no bearing on safety with a automatic car. Sigh, HN.)

My guess is that self-driving cars are basically a meme at this point and that people believed a self-driving thread would detract from the discussion.

“once we have automatic driving cars” is overly optimistic. There is no reason to believe self-driving cars will ever exist in most places in the US.

"if you live in west Texas or Montana these laws make it almost impossible to drink in a social setting legally"

Most states have BAC of .08 to .1. if you are adult male you can comfortably have 3 drinks over the course of couple hours.

Do people drink much more than this at typical social settings?

it depends a lot on what you mean by "drink". let's assume I only drink 12oz beers at 5% ABV and 1.5oz shots of 80 proof, and I'm hanging out with friends for three hours before going home. if I, a 140lb male, have three drinks, starting the first one the moment I show up, I will be just under the legal limit when I leave. [0] if I get pulled over and the breathalyzer is off by even 0.01, I may well be spending the night in jail.

the bigger problem is that I rarely ever consume a "standard drink". the beers I typically drink are anywhere between 6% and 8% ABV, making my typical beer somewhere between 1.2 and 1.6 standard drinks. if I go to a bar and order my favorite cocktail, the manhattan, that one serving is around two standard drinks. I'm already close to the legal limit by the time I finish my first one! if I have a typical beer and cocktail and don't slam the first one immediately, I need to wait at least four hours before driving home.

as an aside: be very careful when you read BAC charts online. several of the top google hits for "BAC chart" take 1.25oz of 80 proof liquor to be a standard drink. I've never seen a shot glass under 1.5oz in my whole life.

[0] https://www.alcohol.org/bac-calculator/

If the machines used to test BAC were reliable, I’d agree with you. The issue isn’t the question of whether you’re actually impaired; it’s whether you’re not impaired but the machine falsely claims you are.

Recently spent a night in jail after having a single solitary drink. I suspect (blood results outstanding) that the officer misread .019 for 0.19, which is staggeringly high for a single drink, perhaps impossible.

Having that experience has completely collapsed my faith in the justice system and worst yet, it has taken more than a month for the results and I'm still waiting. My only mistake was being honest with the officer and offering that I had had a single drink an hour before.

> offering that I had had a single drink an hour before

They teach them to multiple the number that people admit to by 2 or 3x.

Another thing to keep in mind is in some states there are multiple DUI statutes. In Georgia you can be charged with DUI Per Se for being over 0.08% BAC but you can also be charged with DUI Less Safe, where even if you're under the BAC limit, you can be charged for being a less safe driver due to the effects of alcohol.

In Colorado there’s DWAI (driving while ability impaired) for 0.05, DUI for 0.08 and Aggravated DUI for 0.17.

For comparison, in Sweden the criminal limit is 0.02 and the more severe crime is 0.05

I prefer the 0.02 because it’s a de facto ban on drinking and driving while 0.05 or 0.08 means you can have a few drinks and then you should judge your own ability to drive (in the exact situation when you are worst at judging your own ability).

That sounds somewhat similar to Canada. In Canada, criminal code is solely within federal jurisdiction, but driving is within provincial jurisdiction. A BAC of 0.08 and higher is criminal DUI. But in many (most?) provinces, a BAC of 0.05 and higher can lead to fines, losing your license, etc. It is not a criminal offence, but it is still a civil infraction.

For what it’s worth, the US is not like Canada in this respect: each US state has its own criminal code.

MADD went too far.

Generally, states use BAC to prove impairment.

Often, if the BAC is above a threshold value (depends on the state), impairment is assumed. If BAC is below that threshold, the BAC is evidence of drinking, but not impairment. Then other evidence, like officer/witness testimony, crashing the car, speeding, etc., are brought in to prove impairment.

Maybe I don't understand the difficulties faced by the manufacturers of these machines, but for the price they're presumably able to charge there's no justification for sloppy or incomplete code.

Have you ever done any work for a local government or defense contractors?

They'll spend millions of dollars on something that's hardly better than a college project, mostly written by interns and barely cobbled together to get a working demo.

The justification for sloppy code is the fact that there's no oversight on projects like these. They just get it done even if it sucks. Working in defense was some of the worst code and poorest management I've seen in my life.

One of my friends works as an engineer for the state DMV. He tells me about similar issues. Some people he work with should never have even gotten the job, they barely know how to code.

Cost and price are not directly tied. As long as price is greater than cost, the product will exist, and the incentives exist to drive cost down to make more money (since raising prices may cost sales, it's a less reliable way of increasing profit).

The article mentions that police precincts are in charge of keeping the machines calibrated, which they often fail to do.

But it looks like programming errors abound as well... Yeesh!

User error.


In Indiana, if I'm asked by a cop, I am legally required to take the bullshit test.

If I take and 'blows drunk' then it can up to a 180 day drivers license suspension.

If I refuse, its a 360 day license suspension.

(And yes, every state is very different on handling and assumption of guilt.)

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure they need probable cause in IN to compel you to take a breathalyzer. This is usually established with a field sobriety test. Source: cops I've talked to in IN, who may or may not be right.

Why don't they also need probable case to force you to take a field sobriety test? Why does one test need probable cause and the other not?

The justification for a FST is either "OWI Checkpoint" or whatever reason you were pulled over for. I don't know why the laws are the way they are.

Probable cause is easily faked.

"I smelled _____"

There's your probable cause right there.

I live in a college down (Bloomington). And driving a motor vehicle is NOT a requirement for Indiana's drunk driving laws.

College students have been field sobriet'd on those damned Lime and Bird scooters, found they exceeded the legal limit, and then were found guilty for DUI. And unlike cars and boats, these things have no license. Doesn't matter.

Indiana's laws are fucked up.

Did you respond to the wrong comment? I didn't say anything about a car being required.

In Indiana, any self-propelled vehicle is considered a "motor vehicle" which obviously includes those scooters. I don't know if bicycles are included under the OWI laws (many states a DUI/OWI is operating any "vehicle" not any "motor vehicle."

I've known people who got pinched on their riding lawn mowers because they crossed the road to mow the other side with a beer in the cupholder.

As someone who had my run-ins... i was usually pulled over for speeding, then a couple of times I was taken to he police station for refusal to do field sobriety tests. The trick to beating these breathalyzers is burping audibly prior to taking the test. This mandates a 30min wait to clear the alcohol from your mouth. Do this a couple times and youve just burned off one drink.


While all your statements are true, your last sentence makes the entire post be abhorrent. Raising awareness on the inaccuracy of breathalyzers is good. Using this to encourage people to drink then drive, and framing the instructions in that manner, is morally irresponsible.

If you drink, don't drive.

first, I'm skeptical that this trick actually works. IANAL, but as I understand it, the police can extrapolate backwards from the breathalyzer reading to estimate what your BAC was while you were actually driving. this practice is somewhat controversial because different people have different elimination rates, but I believe it is still generally accepted by courts in the US. so unless you're able to delay to the point where you have a BAC of zero (which can't be extrapolated from), this doesn't actually help you. it may even hurt you by adding more variance to the situation.

second, GP did not go so far as to actually encourage people to drive drunk. they merely gave (somewhat dubious) advice to anyone who may find themselves arrested on suspicion of DUI. in almost any interaction a citizen has with law enforcement, there is a strong information asymmetry working against them, and not all officers are seeking a just outcome. imo, any knowledge or technique that counters this imbalance is good for citizens to have.

In many states this isn’t a “trick”: a 20 minute observation period is codified in law before the evidentiary breath test is used to ensure that the test is accurate.

See for example this publication from the Wisconsin bar association - https://www.wisbar.org/newspublications/wisconsinlawyer/page...

> The protocol for an Intoximeter test, by contrast, is much more involved. A valid test on the Intoximeter must be preceded by a 20-minute observation period (to ensure the subject does not burp, belch, regurgitate, and so on).

Additionally I would be surprised if you can produce case law around estimation and extrapolation of BAC being legally acceptable in courts: in most cases the opposite is true. For example, Romano v. Kimmelman:

> In drunk driving prosecutions a substantial burden of proof to establish the competence or admissibility of the results of the breathalyzer test is appropriate because of the serious consequences of the breathalyzer reading in such prosecutions.

In general the best advice for people pulled over by the police is to refuse any preliminary breath test and refuse any field sobriety tests. Those tests exist to establish probable cause to take you to the police station for an evidentiary test. Your state law may of course vary but in mine refusal of either roadside test is not illegal and the refusal is not admissible in court.

If you are taken to the police station for a test because the police have probable cause you almost certainly cannot refuse that test without violating state law; this is where a good lawyer challenging probable cause for the stop/search and the testing procedures comes into play.

They can typically get a warrant for a blood draw, generally in less than 30 minutes.

Of course. It is a high sensibility field test designed to rule out suspects. False positives are likely. The only thing it is good for is screening suspects for further specific testing. Same goes for other drug tests which can and do react to random substances.

The problem is people get jailed or fined based on the result even though it proves nothing.

I think the article is in reference to the more sophisticated stationary breathalyzer at the police station

Ive always been curious and it seems like nobody really answers the question, perhaps because the act of driving drunk is so faux pas:

If you know that you are drunk and you are pulled over, is it better to refuse the breath test or not?

The only advice I have ever heard which made sense didnt answer that question but suggested you stall as long as possible so that the maximum amount of time would go by before you take the 'official' test at the police station, which should in theory result in a lower blood alcohol percent.

In all states I'm familiar with it's better to fail the test rather than decline as the penalties for declining are much harsher, often twice as harsh.

Good advice unless a conviction will ruin your life.

For some people, a criminal conviction may be a far worse result than having an administrative 12-month driver's license suspension.

I recall hearing about a local sheriff/police-chief refusing to do a BAC test after an arrest for DUI. It resulted in an acquittal for lack of evidence.

Refusing a breath test may be a criminal conviction itself.

At least it is across Canada.

It varies state-by-state in the USA whether that’s the case, there’s a patchwork of state laws and one’s best bet is to consult an attorney familiar with your state here.

(Please don’t drive drunk so you don’t have to make this decision!)

A friend of mine was let off of what was certain to be a drunk driving offense because both officers who arrived on scene "forgot" the breathalyzer unit and were too embarrassed to go back to the precinct and pick it up essentially.

So based on that anecdoctal evidence, I would guess that they are mostly extremely out of calibration.

(If they're just these weird machines that nobody keeps track of or knows where they are at all times)

Breathalyzers should be regulated by the FDA or thrown out entirely. A blood test is regulated and therefore should be realible. Right now Breathalyzers are 510(K) exempt... this is clearly untenable.

if I recall, you can refuse to take it. They then take you to a station for a blood test (may need a warrant).

Depends largely on state though, but armed with this reporting you can probably sue if you face consequences of refusing (implied Consent doesn’t ring as valid if the test is not valid). Not a lawyer though...


This advice is very wrong for many states. In NC, for example, you will have your license suspended if you refuse a breath test (regardless of actual intoxication.)

And sure, you could sue, but if your defense rests on invalidating implied consent laws, I sincerely hope you have the time and money to fight all the way to the state supreme court.

As you say, it depends on your jurisdiction. In Norway, if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test you'll have a blood sample taken whether you like it or not.

Additionally, if you do consent to a breathalyzer test and it shows traces of alcohol, a blood sample is taken to determine the exact BAC (And, presumably, also to be used as evidence.)

>you'll have a blood sample taken whether you like it or not.

Are you saying they can forcibly take blood without your consent?

In the UK it's my understanding that you can refuse all testing but if you do that you will be charged with a separate offence which has similar penalties to the drink driving offence you're trying to wriggle out of.

In the US they can forcibly draw blood with a warrant. I don’t think they can without a warrant, but I’m not 100% sure.

-Yes, that is my understanding, though I haven't had any first-hand experience with anything but breathalyzer testing.

Further, from what I've been able to gather refusing a breathalyzer test does not lead to another charge; refusing the blood test will.

Are you saying they can forcibly take blood without your consent?

Presumably a positive on a breath test is considered probable cause for a more invasive search.

In the UK, 'medical reasons' are grounds for refusing a breath test and requesting a blood test instead. The gov.uk website [0] doesn't identify any other excuses than can be used.

[0] https://www.gov.uk/stopped-by-police-while-driving-your-righ...

In pretty much every state if the officer had probable cause to pull you over and you refuse to take a breathalyzer they can arrest you.

However an officer can't just demand you take the breathalyzer without probable cause. (DUI checkpoints are an exception to the requirement for probable cause.)

In Indiana, if you are tested at a hospital with blood test, then jurors are required to back-date the alcohol to the time of arrest and assume the highest reading. Proof be damned.

The law was passed in 2008, and I sat on a case as a juror that went over this very detail.

You mean in that case they arrest you. Chances are if you've been drinking that a breath test will incriminate you. If you choose to skip a breath test you leave the cops with a choice to arrest you or let you go, if they pulled you over then they probably would feel the need to arrest you. Which means that you'll be getting a blood test at the station. A blood test at the station may or may not be the best choice depending on how much you had to drink and when. If you just had some shots and immediately get pulled over you may be more intoxicated for the blood test. If you stopped drinking a while ago then delaying to the blood test could help you look less intoxicated. The idea is that you want to choose based on what is best in your current situation. Its best not to drive under the influence and avoid the situation entirely.

Also atleast in Germany, if u not refusing and the breath test says u drunk, they will have to take a blood test anyways

I think what's missing is any sense of perspective or judgement in the laws.

Driving drunk 100 miles an hour the wrong way when kids are going to school in the morning is different than driving 40 on major roads after having a cocktail or two with dinner. Yet the law basically treats the latter like the former.

Driving 40 miles/hour anywhere with pedestrians/cyclists is incredibly dangerous. If hit at that speed, a pedestrian/cyclist will almost certainly die.

Ideally, urban streets should be limited to 20 miles/hour, and should not have drivers impaired by alcohol. (This is obviously unrealistic in the foreseeable future in most of the USA, where automobiles are treated like royalty.)

>Driving 40 miles/hour anywhere with pedestrians/cyclists is incredibly dangerous. If hit at that speed, a pedestrian/cyclist will almost certainly die.

The former doesn't follow from the latter. I mean, by leaving your house, you might slip and fall and die; that does not mean leaving your house is incredibly dangerous, because we have to account for both the severity of the outcome and the probability of it.

Traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the USA among young healthy people.

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/us/pedestrian-deaths.html

People who are drunk should not be thinking “Oh I am only driving 40 miles/hour on an arterial road. I am not doing anything dangerous.” Driving a car is inherently one of the most dangerous things most of us do on a daily basis, and should be treated carefully and respectfully.

It's a bit off topic but I was recently reading about alcohol taxation and found out that many pedestrian deaths also occur when the pedestrian is drunk and that it's incredibly dangerous as well, something I hadn't considered. So don't drive or walk (or bike or Lime or whatever) drunk


I served on a DUI jury. Everything wasn't all bundled up into a single charge. In addition to the DUI charges, he was also charged with a long list of moving violations. In your scenarios, the list of charges would be different in each case. They'd both include DUI but the other charges would vary greatly.

Even without other significant violations, the difference between 0.079 and 0.08 is hugely punative.

To get around that, my state allows you to be arrested for DUII even if you blow 0.00. If the cop says you are drunk, you are presumed drunk. In reality, I doubt many of these cases get to trial, but the arrest can never be expunged.

I don't want much judgement in the laws. If someone has ingested alcohol and it's not yet metabolized I don't want them driving. It's irresponsible, full stop. (Same goes for other driving impairments-- drowsy, under the influence of drugs, distracted, etc.) The idea that one should be making a judgement call on their degree of impairment and choosing to drive is odious to me. If you're impaired, don't drive.

Edit: I'm not a molecular biologist. Let's edit this to say "If someone has ingested alcohol and it's not yet metabolized to the extent that it is unable to create a discernable impairment I don't want them driving."

Edit 2: It sounds like an objective test for reflexes and response time would be a better test of impairment (of any type) rather than using blood/breath alcohol measurements as a proxy for impairment.

Drowsy driving causes more deaths than drunk driving plus drugged driving combined. Ever driven on less than a solid 8 hours?

See _Why we Sleep_ by Matthew Walker.

Drowsy driving should be as much of a crime as drunk driving-- absolutely. There is no excuse for getting behind the wheel impaired and exposing innocent people to unnecessary risk.

The problem is that it isn't binary... you aren't either drowsy or not drowsy, it is a spectrum... and you can't always tell exactly where you are on the spectrum.

So, exactly the same as drunkenness.

I agree, but the consequences of this policy would be really dramatic. For example, new parents are effectively on house arrest until their kids start sleeping through the night.

I would take this to its logical conclusion. New parents are chronically sleep-deprived, and therefore should not drive. On a social level, we should not place new parents under house arrest. Therefore, we should invest in public transportation so that driving is not necessary to function in society.

Young couples are well served by transportation just before they become parents. Then as the baby is arriving they explicitly and intentionally seek car-oriented housing, as this is considered the correct place to raise a family.

So we have to look at why cities are considered unsuitable for children. This quickly gets into uncomfortable territory about respecting the rights of the other demographics (for example homeless people and less affluent children with lower academic performance) that middle-class families are fleeing when they move to the suburbs.

> Then as the baby is arriving they explicitly and intentionally seek car-oriented housing, as this is considered the correct place to raise a family.

As someone who lives in a major metropolitan area, I have read this argument a few times in the Internet, but this doesn't match my experience; of all young couples who became parents that I know, none did "seek car-oriented housing", at most they moved to a bigger apartment (with more rooms).

In most cities in the US, decent housing near public transpiration that is big enough for a family is expensive enough that it's not really a viable option for most people.

Beyond that most cities in the US only have a few areas that are high enough density where not owning a car is convenient. And those high density areas generally aren't geared towards families on a budget.

This basically means that no night shift worker is allowed to drive home from work.

I never found that driving after a night shift was much different to driving after a day shift. Of course, when working nights, I slept during the day. YMMV.

Night-shift workers should sleep during the day.

My guess is you've never worked night shift. It's not as easy to sleep during the day as it is at night, even with black out curtain, unless you wanted to get drugged up every day.

YMMV, I guess, I slept perfectly fine when I worked the night shift. (Went to bed around 5-6am)

That may have been the difference. We didn't get out until 9am (12hr shift) and by then the sun is high and bright so by the time you've driven home you've spent enough time outside where your body has switched from "I'm tired lets go to bed" to "the day is just getting started".

What is the drowsiness test? The convenient thing about breathalyzers is it provides a quantitative number we can use in judgement. I can't think of a similar test for drowsiness. Maybe there is a blood test? Maybe someone could create a similar device that looks for special metabolites in the breath to provide a measurement for drowsy people?

I don't doubt this statistic, but this is only an argument that we should find a way to better disincentivize drowsy driving rather than to soften the drunk driving laws. A few states have passed laws to penalize drowsy driving already.

What it does is make people realize that nearly everyone who drives, drives a little impaired sometimes. That stops us from thinking this is about "other" people who can be punished to an arbitrarily high degree. Instead, now we have to acknowledge that it will be our sons, daughters, spouses, uncles, and cousins. It's just a matter of whether they got pulled over after a restless night or trying to finish a school assignment or working too late thr night before.

So, go ahead and punish people for impaired driving. But punish them like you'd want your daughter, cousin, or yourself punished. Not like a criminal who has crossed a major moral line.

Exactly. Prohibitionists think that these laws will never affect them or their beloved ones. Why are we so keen on ruining other people's lives based on arbitrary crap that is meaningless without all the other variables that we do not take into account?

Similarly, texting while driving has been found to be more dangerous than drunk driving.

> If someone has ingested alcohol and it's not yet metabolized I don't want them driving. It's irresponsible, full stop.

Really? I had a glass of wine last night. There are probably a few molecules of unmetabolized alcohol still in my system. Is it "irresponsible, full stop" for me to drive today?

I'm not a molecular biologist. I've edited my comment to be more precise in expressing the spirit of what I meant.

> If someone has ingested alcohol and it's not yet metabolized to the extent that it is unable to create a discernable impairment...

I sympathize, but your new formulation has exactly the same problem as your first one: discernible by whom? If your BAC is 0.0001 but a police officer says that you appeared to be impaired in their subjective judgement, should that be enough to convict you of driving while impaired? And do you even want to try to distinguish alcohol-induced impairment from sleep deprivation? Do you really want to start punishing people for driving while sleepy? What are you going to use as the legal standard for that?

Impairment is impairment. I want just as many drowsy drivers on the road as I want alcohol-consuming drivers.

An objective test of reflexes / response time would be highly technically feasible. (I'd also like to see periodic re-certification for drivers with such a test too, but that's another issue.)

> I want just as many drowsy drivers on the road as I want alcohol-consuming drivers.

So do I. The challenge is coming up with a legal standard to decide who goes to jail and who doesn't which does not result in a ton of false positives. Do you really want to turn going to work after a bad night's sleep into a crime?

In many places that appearance is enough to charge you and the nearly zero BAC is only enough to provide some evidence against. Who knows what drugs you were taking? You’d have to prove a case that the cop had no real reason to suspect you.

> If someone has ingested alcohol and it's not yet metabolized I don't want them driving. It's irresponsible, full stop.

Some would say we put discretion in the legal system to account for incomplete empirical knowledge. This article is asserting incomplete empirical knowledge.

I was responding to the parent's comment re: differentiating between different "degrees" of offense. If the breath test system is flawed it should be replaced by a better test.

I agree w/ the other commenter who says that sentencing is the place where degree of offense should be considered.

The same goes with being tired. While the typical US DUI test does sound stupid, it at least has a chance of catching those who are tired.

That’s exactly what sentencing is for. The law is the law, but the judge and prosecutors adjust for severity.

I think the intent of the law is to stop people doing the latter - which surely results in more deaths.

In both cases you might drive into me and I'll be just as pissed off. How hard can it be? No drugs, no alcohol while driving. Assholes that don't understand this should have their license revoked.

Don't drive unless you've had a solid 8 hours of restful sleep. Drowsy driving is actually more lethal.

Does is it still sound easy?

No. Most people would go easy on someone who stays up late studying or has some insomnia, and still drives the next day. Or a designated driver that got to bed late because they drove their friends home. But why? They are impaired and a threat to life as much or more than someone who has a glass of wine or two with dinner and then drives.

You of course also should not drive when you're tired. Case in point: I'm cycling today because I did not sleep enough last night, conscious decision on my part not to drive.

To me you sound very much as though you are justifying your own behavior.

The same number of innocent people die from drunk drivers as from guns. I would wager it's partially because of dismissive attitudes like this.

>> after having a cocktail or two with dinner

A drink or two won't do it. For a 180lb male, it would take 4 drinks for them to become over the legal limit

> For a 180lb male, it would take 4 drinks for them to become over the legal limit

That's not true, but I don't blame you — I learned the same thing in school. As I recall, the 'drinks' they used were 10-ounce servings of 3.2 beer, not 16-ounce servings of 5.8% beer. And the limit now is 3/4 of what it used to be (was .12, then .10, now .08).

A single good beer is enough to throw you over the limit.

Just don't have a drink and then drive. Never mind whether you can drive just fine or not after one drink[0]: it's just not worth the legal consequences regardless.

0: I used to think it was okay, but I no longer do.

12oz (1 can) of 4.5% beer


4 drinks for 180lb male gives .08 BAC, not accounting for time to drink (every 40 minutes lowers by .01)

if you drink bud light or coors, sure, this chart will work well for you. GP mentioned "a single good beer", which I take to mean that they like to drink craft beers, which are likely to be well over 4.5%. most IPAs seem to fall between 5.5 and 7%. most tripels are around 9%. cocktails can vary a lot, but my favorite (the manhattan) is about two standard drinks. a typical old fashioned is around 1.5 standard drinks depending on the choice of whiskey. if you have more than one type of beverage, especially cocktails you don't know the exact recipe for, it becomes nontrivial to estimate how much you have consumed.

also, it's sort of hard to trust these charts. I've looked at four or five from various trustworthy-seeming sources and they don't really agree with each other. they make different assumptions for what a standard drink is and some of them round in different directions. I saw one assuming a 1.5oz shot of 80 proof spirit is equivalent to 12oz of 4.5% beer and another equating the same amount of spirit to 12oz of 5% beer. some charts that used the same definition of "standard drink" disagree on the BAC numbers anyway. personally I just assume everything I drink is two standard drinks, and a recommend to my friends that they do the same. I'm unpopular at parties for some reason...

When I am visiting a friend and plan to drive after a drink or two, I usually find and bring a “session beer” that’s 4-5% ABV. There are good beers out there that aren’t 7-8% but it does seem like the majority of craft beer is high ABV and having more than one and then driving is concerning to me.

And yeah, avoid mixed drinks or liquors, that’s an easy way to a high BAC sometimes without even realizing it from what I hear people say (getting sick on drinking mixed drinks to the point of intoxication, or so on).

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