Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Will Arresting People Who Aren't Very Drunk Reduce Drunk-Driving Fatalities?

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On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report offering several recommendations on how to reduce drunk driving in the United States. The most newsworthy idea: States should lower their blood-alcohol-content thresholds from the current 0.08 to 0.05. Back during the Clinton presidency, the federal government prevailed on all 50 states to lower the BAC threshold from 0.10 to 0.08. It took a lot of work to implement that last drop-off, however, and as my colleague Josh Voorhees explained yesterday, this new proposal won’t likely go anywhere given the do-nothingness of the current Congress.

That might not be the worst outcome. If we’re going to have drunk-driving laws, then, yes, at some point there needs to be a cutoff at which society says, “hand over the keys, you’re drunk.” But it’s not clear that 0.05—the equivalent of three beers in 90 minutes for a 180-pound man, according to the New York Times—is that level. The NTSB report admits that “the majority of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes have BAC levels well over 0.08.” According to the NTSB’s own report, the yearly rate of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities has remained relatively stable since 1995, despite the big federal push to move from 0.10 to 0.08. As the NTSB chart below shows, the “proportion of [highway] fatalities associated with alcohol-impaired drivers has remained between 30 and 32 percent” in every calendar year since 1995.

For the rest of the story: http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/05/15/drunk_driving_bac_limit_will_arresting_people_who_aren_t_very_drunk_reduce.html

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