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Reducing Alcohol Related Vehicle Crashes – May 20, 2013

On average, every hour that passes in America, one person is killed and twenty more injured in an alcohol related vehicle accident.  This amounts to an annual toll of almost 10,000 people killed and over 173,000 injured. What is also noteworthy is that while total highway fatalities have generally been on the decline since the mid 1990’s, the percentage of deaths from alcohol related crashes has remained fairly constant at about 30%.  Additionally, a recent report of wrong-way driving revealed that over sixty percent of those wrong-way crashes involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a set of suggested interventions last week to help reduce the number of these alcohol-impaired driver accidents.  The nineteen recommendations call for stronger laws, swifter enforcement and expanded use of technology.

One of the more noteworthy recommendations was the lowering of the blood alcohol content  (BAC) from .08% to .05% or lower.   According to cited research, cognitive and visual functions show signs of decline at the .05% BAC level.  Over a hundred other countries have BAC limits set at .05 or lower and the NTSB is asking all 50 states to do the same.  Specifically, the report makes recommendations to the states in the following safety issue areas:

  1. Reducing the per se blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for all drivers,
  2. Conducting high-visibility enforcement of impaired driving laws and incorporating passive alcohol sensing technology into enforcement efforts,
  3. Expanding the use of in-vehicle devices to prevent operation by an impaired driver,
  4. Using driving while intoxicated (DWI) courts and other programs to reduce recidivism by repeat DWI offenders, and
  5. Establishing measurable goals for reducing impaired driving and tracking progress toward those goals.

In the words of NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman:  “Alcohol-impaired crashes are not accidents they are crimes. They can – and should – be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will.”

The complete report can be found at http://go.usa.gov/TeQe.

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