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New Braunfels personal injury lawyerIn 1984, federal lawmakers passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which required every state to establish the age 21 as the legal drinking age. Technically, the law did not force states to make such a change, but it did “encourage” compliance by promising to reduce federal highway funds for states that did not do so. In 2000, Congress acted again, this time establishing a nationwide legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0.08—and again, promising to withhold federal funds from states that refused to comply. While political experts and others have continued to debate the constitutionality and appropriateness of such federal measures, both of these were passed with the same stated goal: reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers on American roadways.

A Successful Venture

While it took several years, all 50 states in the U.S. eventually adopted the lower BAC standard of 0.08. Texas made the change from 0.10 to 0.08 by a legislative measure that was enacted on September 1, 1999—well in advance of the coming federal directive. Despite the reluctance in certain areas of the country, the new requirements began to have a noticeable effect on roadway safety. Federal safety reports show that in 1999, nearly 16,000 American motorists lost their lives in alcohol-related accidents. By 2015, nationwide fatalities had fallen to around 10,000 per year.

Considering that the legal BAC limit had been lowered by only 20 percent in most states—from 0.10 to 0.08—the 37 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities was a major accomplishment. Improvement, however, seems to have slowed, and the number of annual drunk driving deaths has remained fairly consistent for the last several years. The results of a new, federally commissioned study now have safety officials pushing for lowering the legal limit once again, so as to drop the number of deaths even further.

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