The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration commissioned a report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine on what strategies for reducing drunk driving have been shown to be effective. The main goal, of course, was to reduce the 10,000 drunk driving deaths that occur each year in the United States.
The panel has just released its report and it issued a significant recommendation: that states should reduce the blood-alcohol level for a DUI offense from 0.08 to 0.05 percent.
One state has already done so. Last year, the state of Utah reduced its DUI threshold to 0.05. The law doesn’t go into effect though until Dec. 30, 2018.
Over 100 countries have already adopted 0.05 percent as their DUI standard. Europe has reduced its drunk-driving fatality rate by over half since the new standard was adopted less than a decade ago.
The report says that crashes involving intoxicated driving account for 28 percent of U.S. traffic deaths. The daily toll is 29 traffic deaths and numerous injuries from alcohol-impaired driving.
The report also recommended various other changes:
•· Crack down on alcohol sales to intoxicated and underage people
•· Significantly increase alcohol taxes
•· Limit the hours alcohol is sold in bars, restaurants and stores
•· Restrict alcohol advertising and fund anti-alcohol marketing campaigns as was done for smoking
Between the early 80s and the early 2000s, the report says, the U.S. made significant progress on reducing drunk driving by employing strategies very much like these. The nationwide DUI threshold was lowered to 0.08 during that period and the drinking age for all alcoholic beverages was raised to 21.
Over the past 25 years or so, however, alcoholic beverages have become more affordable and more widely advertised. They’re available in greater variety and a lack of consistency in serving sizes makes it difficult for drinkers to gauge how intoxicated they are. Meanwhile, alcohol has become routinely mixed with caffeinated beverages, which has also makes estimating one’s own intoxication a challenge.
The alcohol and restaurant industries point out that the recommendations do nothing to address repeat offenders and people who drive with a high BAC, which are the people whom the Distilled Spirits Council argues account for the vast majority of alcohol-related fatalities.
Regardless, the pressure will be on for states to lower their DUI thresholds. To comply, on average women should expect to consume no more than two drinks per sitting and men no more than two or three.