As I was driving home from Memphis this past weekend , I heard quite a few radio spots . The theme of the ads was that " Buzzed Driving Equals Drunk Driving ". The ads are part of a campaign by the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) . The ads are designed to increase awareness of drunk driving . It occurred to me there may be a second purpose of the ads .
The concept of buzzed driving equals drunk driving creates a perception in potential jurors minds of a lower standard of proof in a criminal case . In order to prove a person guilty of DUI , the evidence must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt . The concept of buzzed driving is legally inaccurate . In order to convict a person of DUI in Tennessee , the State of Tennessee must prove the elements contained in T.C.A. 55-10-401. The main part of the definition is as follows;
while “under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system or combination thereof that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of himself which he would otherwise possess” or while “the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood is .08% BAC……
The key part is depriving the owner of clearness of mind .Nothing in Tennessee’s drunk driving law mentions buzzed driving. So are the ads PR or propaganda ?
Today , I heard another ad in which the director of the GHSO Kendall Poole tells the listeners that you should not drink and drive period. This sends the message of zero tolerance of alcohol which is clearly not the law of the land.
One last fun fact. The Governor’s Highway Safety Office is 100% federally funded to the tune of 24.5 million dollars.