Walking drunk (5×8 – 12/28/11)


1) THE SCIENCE OF DRUNK

Is walking drunk more dangerous than driving drunk? Freakonomics radio is probably going to be hearing about it, thanks to its broadcast that suggested if you only had two choices, driving drunk is the safer alternative.

“For every mile walked drunk, turns out to be eight times more dangerous than the mile driven drunk,” says Steve Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago. “So just to put it simply, if you need to walk a mile from a party to your home, you’re eight times more likely to die doing that than if you jump behind the wheel and drive your car that same mile.”

An ER doc says there’s a big spike in drunk pedestrian deaths at New Year’s.

Here’s the segment:

On New Year’s Eve, by the way, Metro Transit is offering free service.

2) DISPATCHES FROM THE SEASON OF PEACE

This was a Christmas which seemed to have an unusually high number of tragic stories that conflicted with the meaning of the season.

Few stories are more unfair than the tragedy in north Minneapolis on Monday, when a stray bullet found a three-year-old who was hiding.

“Over this summer, everybody in news said ‘keep your kids inside,’” the boy’s mother said. “My kids stay inside. They have games. They have good systems. They got everything they wanted in that house. Just so I can keep them inside,” Mayes said. “But here it is the devil creeped inside and took my son’s life.”

In Connecticut, you’ve probably heard by now, five people were killed when a fire started because someone improperly disposed of ashes from a fireplace.

But there are other victims in stories like this, too, the Associated Press reports – the firefighters.

“After 37 and a half years, 38 years, on the job, you’re never prepared for anything like this,” acting fire Chief Antonio Conte said Tuesday. “It’s heart-breaking. I had to re-call 70 firefighters today for debriefing, and most of them broke down.”

3) THE LOOK OF WASTEFUL SPENDING

In Montreal, the city’s public works department is under fire for wasteful spending for plowing snow when there wasn’t any snow to plow, the CBC reports.

Should property taxes be based on the value of a home?

Joe Soucheray’s column in the Pioneer Press answers a letter writer who defended the notion that the more valuable your home, the more you should pay.


Somebody named John C. Hottinger wrote in a letter to the editor the other day that I should pay higher property taxes than my St. Paul neighbors with less valuable houses because the police and fire departments, in the event they are needed by me, would be protecting me against a higher loss.

Think about that for a moment. It makes absolutely no sense, but then I suspect that he is the John C. Hottinger who was a legislator, so that might explain his not being able to make any sense.

My homeowner’s insurance policy protects me against a loss, not property taxes.

This property tax tussle, first with Ed Lotterman, and then his various acolytes, would be more fun if it wasn’t so pressing. Despite the likes of Hottinger, who believes otherwise, I am capable of concern for others. It shouldn’t be needed to point that out, but people who write letters to the editor can get way with pretty much anything they want to say.

I am worried that St. Paul will become less and less hospitable to young families raising children. It’s that simple. And when those young families put themselves on the giant radar screen by having the audacity to improve their home and actually spend money in St. Paul, they will be the ones to pay increased fees to the piper.

As for the role of the fire department in my life, God bless them, but they would use the same water on my house that they use on any other house, and if I intend to be protected it is because I pay insurance premiums commensurate with the value of the property.

Here’s Mr. Hottinger’s original point:


Sorry, Mr. Soucheray, but you should be paying higher taxes than your St. Paul neighbors with less valuable houses – the protection you get from police and fire is protecting against a much higher loss for you than others. Soucheray’s ideology apparently would have everyone pay the same amount for their home insurance and property taxes – increasing everyone else’s payments so he can get his more valuable coverage for much less than he pays.

Discuss.

4) FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ‘WHAT DID HE SAY?’

Reader/Twitter pal David Eldred wins today’s points for sharp-eyed acquisition of nonsense in this New York Times story about mid-sized restaurants and their particular struggles in a lousy economy.


“I don’t think we’re overbuilt. I think we’re underdemolished.”

5) R.I.P., CHEETAH

Cheetah, Tarzan’s companion, is dead. He died in a Florida animal sanctuary of kidney failure. He was 80.

Bonus: What would go through your mind while falling to your death?

TODAY’S QUESTION

A conversation today on Midmorning looks at the potential drawbacks of the increasingly prominent role that social media play in our lives. Today’s Question: Do you trust information from social media any more or less than information from traditional media?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes military spending for the coming year. But it contains controversial language that seems allow indefinite detention of terrorist suspects. Congress has passed the NDAA and sent it to the White House for the president’s signature. Should he sign it?

Second hour: The current status of social media.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Three award-winning teachers, Ryan Vernosh, Joyce Baumann and Peter Redman share their ideas about teaching and learning.

Second hour: TBA

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: With the caucuses right around the corner, Iowa still looks wide open. Romney and Bachmann are back on the air across the state, and from Clarinda to Decorah, candidates jump off their buses at pizza joints and coffee houses to connect with just a few more voters. The political junkie and host Neal Conan are in Des Moines.

Second hour: Kids and agricultural work.

  • Paul

    thanks due to the link you put up on property taxes I took a quick look at the Mpls taxes and where they go… Joe misses things like roads, capital projects, etc… And like many of Joe’s arguments his analogy is overly simplified and doesn’t capture of a lot things like cost of running a fire truck, paying for the men on it, etc. (Then again anybody who says that his home owner’s insurance “protects” his house is already starting out on shaky ground.)

  • John O.

    The “market value” that is used to form the basis for each property owner’s property tax calculations is an estimate. We have lived in the same house since 1992. When the day comes that we sell, the value assigned by the county is not a guarantee that this is the amount we would be able to actually sell it for.

    We have never done a second mortgage or home equity loan. As a result, we have never had the need to have the property independently appraised.

  • Bob Moffitt

    I’ve heard that Cheetah was a mean cuss, even while sober.

  • Alison

    \\This was a Christmas which seemed to have an unusually high number of tragic stories that conflicted with the meaning of the season.

    Here’s another: Every major Republican presidential candidate has now vowed to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying the person they love. The Christ Child they celebrate as central to their values came into this world to spread the message that we are to love everyone – except the fags, you should hate them. How many members of your family weren’t at your celebration of the birth of the ‘God of Love’ because they and/or their partners weren’t welcome?

  • BenCh

    The Duluth Transit is also offering free bus rides for New Years (and also extended hours).

    In my experience, friends walking home drunk have had more problems getting lost than possibly dying. although in the winter months I can see how that is a problem. Even so, I see walking drunk a lot less dangerous to others than driving drunk.

  • Jeff

    I want to know how they decided that you are 8 times more likely to die while walking drunk one mile than you are driving one mile. They use that as evidence for their argument but don’t explain how they got to that conclusion! If that is true, perhaps it is because those who were walking drunk were REALLY drunk but those who were driving were anywhere between slightly buzzed and close-to-blackout drunk.

  • Greta J

    “So just to put it simply, if you need to walk a mile from a party to your home, you’re eight times more likely to die doing that than if you jump behind the wheel and drive your car that same mile.”

    Well that solves the dilema of ‘Too Drive or not Too Drive”

    Trust me, no one wants to walk a mile in my shoes while I’m drunk.

  • Greta J

    Who am I kidding,

    sober in my shoes for a mile is pretty gosh darn crazy too!

  • kennedy

    “What would go through your mind while falling to your death?”

    I would probably be thinking how stupid I was to put myself in a position where I had a chance to fall to my death. Spoken from experience in less serious accidents that resulted from my poor planning.

  • Greta J

    “I would probably be thinking how stupid I was to put myself in a position where I had a chance to fall to my death. Spoken from experience in less serious accidents that resulted from my poor planning.

    Posted by kennedy”

    Rest assured kennedy, that a common denominator will surface and will be brought to justice in past and upcoming near fatal and coincidental accidents given the technology that we have today will all the cameras not to mention cell phone cameras and the documentation of all texts and phone calls as long as their provider is not centurytel.

    Its win-win for Real justice.

  • bsimon

    “Should property taxes be based on the value of a home?”

    I’m not sure what would be a better alternative. Larger homes do have the potential to require more fire dept resources, for instance; house valuation is one potential proxy for trying to account for that. Also, larger lot sizes reduce the number of taxable properties – again valuation is a proxy for that. There are certainly problems with the various ways we pay for government. But what is usually missing from those criticisms are viable alternatives.

  • Jon

    I lost a lot of respect for the Freakonomics guys after last night’s segment. I’ve never heard of a drunk pedestrian killing a family when he bumps into them on a sidewalk.

    I found it rather sad when I recently learning that Minnesota has one of the highest rates of binge drinking – and that it is just as likely to occur among the elderly as it is the college goers. Its too bad the Freakonomics folks didn’t use their shock-facts to just encourage people to drink a little less rather than assume being drunk is inevitable.

  • Matt W

    The drunk walking results don’t really seem all that out of whack to me. If you’re going to impair your abilities, doing anything is going to be more dangerous than before. The walking versus driving thing, I think, is more about the situation than anything else. A drunk driver (while having the ability to create worse problems through speed and the size of their car) is surrounded by things designed to keep them from dying should something go wrong. From all the safety features in the car to the guardrails and warning signs outside, they have a better chance to survive their bad decisions. A pedestrian has no shielding and something as simple as slipping on a patch of ice could kill them instantly. That being said, the focus on driving versus walking when it comes to enforcment and ad campaigns still makes sense since a drunk walker most likely is going to pay for their bad decision themselves, whereas a drunk driver is generally taking other people with them. Whether that makes one better than the other would be whole different issue.

  • Greta J

    “The drunk walking results don’t really seem all that out of whack to me. If you’re going to impair your abilities, doing anything is going to be more dangerous than before”

    In short,

    I motion for seat belts built onto tall bar stools or out-law tall bar stools all together.

  • Jeff

    Someone on the Freakonomics website pointed out something — risky activity should be measured by the amount of time exposed to the activity. Since you drive two miles home in 10 minutes but walk two miles home in 45, you are exposed to the risk for longer.

    I gotta say that I expect better things than this from Marketplace/American Public Meda/Minnesota Public Radio.

  • Bob Collins

    MPR has no authority over Marketplace or Freakonomics radio. But people seem to be reacting to it, so at least it’s interesting.

    Or did you want to hear more Iowa caucus coverage? (g)

  • Alison

    One problem (among many) with the Freakonomics radio report is that it is based on ‘per mile’. Obviously drunk drivers are going to cover many more miles than drunk walkers. Also, as many others have pointed out, a drunk walker isn’t as likely to kill or injure others.