Every year, nearly 10,000 people are killed and 173,000 are injured in crashes involving alcohol-impaired driving. The cost: $130 billion, or about twice the cost of Hurricane Sandy.

With pressure from the public health community and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there was much progress in the 1980s and 1990s when deaths from alcohol-impaired driving accounted for nearly one-half of highway fatalities. States dropped blood alcohol limits to 0.08 percent, from 0.10, and raised the drinking age to 21.

If states reduce the blood alcohol limit to 0.05 percent, it will save lives, just as lowering it from 0.10 to 0.08 did.

Yet, since 1995, drunk-driving deaths as a percentage of total highway fatalities have remained around 30 percent. If states reduce the blood alcohol limit to 0.05, it will save lives, just as lowering it from 0.10 to 0.08 did.

The research shows that drivers with a 0.05 percent or higher blood alcohol content are at significantly greater risk of being involved in a fatal crash. One study found that crash risk was 38 percent greater at 0.05 than at 0 percent and that when a driver’s blood alcohol content reaches 0.07, crash risk is doubled.

We also know that at 0.05 most drivers experience diminished visual function, increased drowsiness and decreased vigilance.

On this issue, the United States is woefully behind the rest of the world. Twenty-five of the 27 European Union countries have a blood limit of 0.05 or lower. Worldwide, more than 100 countries on six continents have a blood alcohol limit of 0.05 or lower, and they are reducing crashes and saving lives.

It’s time to take bold action. That’s why the National Transportation Safety Board recommends more effective sanctions, high-visibility enforcement, addressing repeat offenders, expanding use of in-vehicle alcohol-detection technology and establishing goals for reducing impaired driving.

And we know there will be naysayers and lots of excuses about why the United States can’t or shouldn’t take these steps.

Yet we also know that every year there are 10,000 reasons to take action.

Source: New York Times


Last updated on: 2013-05-27 | Link to this post