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Would a Lower Drunk Driving Limit Reduce Traffic Fatalities?

Posted on in Personal Injury

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.

A Call for Action

The study was conducted by a panel of esteemed scientists from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Their findings support a lowering of the legal BAC limit for adult drivers of private vehicles from 0.08 to 0.05. According to the panel, the move could save hundreds, and possibly thousands of lives each year. The panel also made a series of other recommendations, including raising taxes on alcoholic beverages, incentivizing the use of alternative transportation—such as taxis and ride-sharing services—and limiting the availability of alcohol at stores, bars, and restaurants.

Some states have already begun to experiment with a lower BAC limit. For example, Utah enacted a 0.05 legal limit at the end of 2018. Nationwide participation, however, will likely require a federal mandate—along with financial threats—similar to the one that was put in place over 20 years ago.

Injured By a Drunk Driver? Contact a Texas Car Crash Lawyer

While there is room for disagreement over what the legal BAC limit should be, there is no question that a drunk driving accident can change a victim’s life forever. If you or someone you love has been injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, contact an experienced New Braunfels drunk driving liability attorney. Call 830-201-3515 for a free consultation at New Braunfels Personal Injury Attorney, Inc.



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