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New Braunfels personal injury attorneyEach month in the United States, there is a different issue that is focused on in order to help bring attention and education to the general population. The month of March is designated as Brain Injury Awareness Month, which is one reason why we recently wrote about brain injuries that are sustained in accidents caused by other parties’ negligence. The month of April, which is coming up in just a couple of weeks, is National Alcohol Awareness Month and safety advocates will not only provide information about alcohol addiction, but also to remind people about the tragic consequences of getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking.

Alcohol Addiction

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence established National Alcohol Awareness Month in 1987. The goal was and still is to increase awareness about alcohol abuse and to help end the stigma often associated with alcohol addiction. In addition to the month-long awareness campaign, there is also an Alcohol-Free Weekend, usually held the first weekend of the month, where everyone is encouraged to remain alcohol-free for 72 hours.

It is estimated – based on a 2019 survey conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – that there are almost 15 million Americans, 12 years or older, who have some level of alcohol addiction. The problem appears to be more prevalent in men, with 9 million estimated to have an alcohol problem, and 5.5 million women sharing this addiction.

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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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