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National Academies Call for Lowering Blood Alcohol Level Threshold for Driving

Glass of dark liquor on a table next to a car key.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report calling for a lowering of the acceptable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for driving. The committee’s study, titled Getting to Zero Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities, concluded that several actions could be taken to lower the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in the United States, including lowering state laws criminalizing drunk driving from 0.08 to 0.05 percent BAC.

In a press release, the committee chair Steven Teutsch says that the report “offers a comprehensive blueprint to reinvigorate commitment and calls for systematic implementation of policies, programs, and systems changes to renew progress and save lives.”

In addition to lowering the BAC threshold for drivers, the committee recommends:

  • increasing alcohol taxes significantly;
  • strengthening policies to prevent illegal alcohol sales to people under 21 and to already inebriated adults;
  • enacting all-offender ignition interlock laws; and
  • provide effective treatment for offenders when needed.

Measures to Prevent Drunk Driving in the United States

The National Academies explains that most past strategies to prevent drunk driving have focused on decreasing the likelihood that an impaired person will decide to get behind the wheel of a vehicle through traditional approaches. In their recent report, they believe that focusing on preventing a person to get to that point of impairment is also important.

Here are a few of the committee’s key points from the study:

  • The report found that a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle begins to deteriorate at BAC levels below the current threshold of 0.08 percent. Pointing toward other countries that enacted laws at 0.05 percent which resulted in a decrease in drunk driving-related deaths, the committee urges states to adopt similar laws with incentives from the federal government.
  • An increase in federal and state alcohol taxes would reduce binge drinking and alcohol-related crash fatalities, according to the report.
  • The committee advocates for state and local governments to limit and reduce alcohol availability. To do so, restrictions would be placed on the days and hours of alcohol sales in establishments such as bars, restaurants, and grocery stores. In order to reduce the illegal sale of alcohol to people under the age of 21 and to intoxicated adults, the study says laws should be adopted and strengthened as well as enforcement increased.
  • Citing strong evidence of ignition interlock device efficacy in the U.S. and other countries, the committee recommends that states require the devices for all first-time DWI offenders.

The committee also supports policies and programs that would increase the availability of convenient and affordable transportation alternatives for people engaging in alcohol consumption, including ride sharing mobile apps (for example, Uber and Lyft) and public transportation, especially in rural areas.

Drunk Driving Facts and Statistics

According to the National Academies, alcohol-impaired driving remains the deadliest and costliest danger on the roadways. The following statistics on alcohol-impaired driving are provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Academies.

  • 10,497 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in the United States in 2016
  • On average since 1982, one-third of all traffic deaths involved an alcohol-impaired driver
  • Every day in the United States 29 people are killed in a drunk driving wreck
  • A law lowering the BAC threshold from 0.08 to 0.05 percent goes into effect in Utah on December 30, 2018 — the first of its kind in the country
  • Almost 40 percent of drunk driving deaths are victims other than the intoxicated driver
  • Despite a 20 percent decline in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities since 2007, the total number of deaths increased for the second straight year in 2016

Injured by a Drunk Driver? Contact an Experienced Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one were injured in a crash involving a drunk driver, contact Thomas J. Henry. Our attorneys are experienced in handling many types of accident cases, including those involving intoxicated drivers and distracted drivers. We are available 24/7, nights and weekends to take your call and evaluate your claim. Speak to one of our lawyers today for a free legal consultation.

Our law firm represents clients nationwide from our offices in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston.

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