A new study says states should lower the legal threshold for drunken driving and enact laws to reduce the availability of alcohol.
Peoples’ ability to operate motor vehicles begins to deteriorate at levels much lower than the 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration that is the standard in the United States, according to the report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Authors of the peer-reviewed study, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recommend setting a 0.05 BAC limit, which they say has proved to be an effective strategy for reducing alcohol-related crashes in countries such as Austria, Denmark and Japan.
About 10,000 people die each year in alcohol-related crashes in the United States, 40 percent of whom weren’t drinking, according to the report, which concludes that despite efforts in the 1980s to lower BAC limits and raise the legal drinking age to 21, progress in reducing drunken driving deaths has stalled.
“The plateauing fatality rates indicate that what has been done to decrease deaths from alcohol-impaired driving has been working but is no longer sufficient to reverse this growing public health problem,” said Steven Teutsch, an adjunct professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health who led the study committee.
The report also recommends raising alcohol taxes, which have not kept pace with inflation, and reducing the number of places where booze is sold as well as the hours it’s available.
Other recommendations include:
- Policies and programs to encourage convenient and affordable transportation alternatives for drinkers.
- Well-publicized sobriety checkpoints.
- Wider adoption of OWI courts, which La Crosse County has been using since 2006.
- Insurance coverage for alcohol abuse prevention and treatment.
Utah last year became the first state to adopt a 0.05 BAC, though the law doesn’t take effect until Dec. 30. The Associated Press reports that a New York lawmaker plans to introduce similar legislation there.