A recent report commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from a group of renowned scientists with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has proposed a drastic lowering of the legal threshold for drunk driving. The authors of the report indicate their strong belief that this, as well as several other measures, would dramatically decrease the number of road deaths that happen as a direct result of intoxicated drivers.
The report, which runs to nearly 500 pages, gives a stark summation of the facts: every year, around 10,000 people die in the United States in car crashes that are caused by alcohol-impairment. On average, 29 people die every day in these sorts of accidents. Out of all traffic fatalities, 28 percent are the result of drivers who are impaired by alcohol. According to the report, by lowering the current legal BAC level from 0.08 to 0.05, hundreds of deaths could be prevented every year.
As well as lowering the legal BAC level, the report suggested levying a higher alcohol tax, tighter regulation and enforcement to prevent underage intoxication, and limiting the amount of funding able to be used for the advertising of alcohol. These measures would follow that pattern set by the campaigns which emerged to crack down on tobacco sales and marketing.
Companies within the restaurant and alcohol industries are, not surprisingly, extremely opposed to all efforts to cut down on alcohol consumption. They have issued counter-statements which claim that the lowering of the legal BAC limit and the raising of the alcohol tax will do little or nothing to prevent accidents and deaths from drunk driving. These industries provided scant scientific evidence to support their claims.
The report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine does not represent an unprecedented attempt to cut down on alcohol-related traffic deaths. In between the 1980s and early in the 2000s, measures such as raising the legal drinking age to 21 and the setting of the legal BAC limit at 0.08 were seen as directly contributing to the steady decrease in the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths. Unfortunately, the report indicates that the positive trend has since slowed down and, in many cases, has started slipping back to its previous levels.
The United States is considerably poorer than many other countries in combating driving impairment. Throughout Europe, for instance, the number of traffic deaths credited to drunk driving dropped by over half during a 10-year period of time after the EU’s BAC level was lowered to 0.05. The new study advocates for a similar life-saving position, and its authors are hoping to find receptive ears for their message.
James O. Cunningham
Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.
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