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A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (National Academies) recommends that states lower the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold for drunk driving from .08 percent to .05 percent. The studies’ authors report that since 1982, approximately one-third of all traffic fatalities are caused by drunk drivers, and that 40 percent of victims are people other than the drunk driver.
The report suggests that all states should implement several recommendations, including lowering the BAC threshold, to reduce the number of alcohol-related fatalities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for Americans during the first three decades of their lives. The CDC reports that 28 people die every day in the U.S. in drunk driving accidents, costing $121.5 billion in medical costs, earnings losses, productivity losses, legal costs and vehicle damage. The National Academies report that while most strategies focus on enforcement and the legal system, they should be placing more emphasis on reducing impaired driving.
The report notes that drivers are often impaired before reaching the .08 percent BAC threshold and are unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. Effects are noticeable after reaching only .02 percent BAC including loss of judgment, decline in visual functions and decline in ability to divide attention. At .05 percent BAC, drivers show reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, and reduced response to emergency situations. By the time drivers reach .08 percent BAC, they display loss of concentration, memory, speed control, reduced information processing capability and impaired perception.
A bill was introduced by Delaware lawmakers to lower the BAC threshold to .05 percent as recommended by the National Academies. The proposal has yet to be heard by the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, but has already been the subject of controversy among those in the alcoholic beverage industry. The American Beverage Institute criticizes the proposal, stating that it fails to target drivers who are responsible for most alcohol-related traffic deaths, instead criminalizing moderate, responsible drinking.
A 2012 CDC survey revealed that 2.7 percent of Delaware drivers reported driving after drinking too much in the past 30 days. This was the sixth highest percentage of all U.S. states, surpassed only by Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. However, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows that only two percent of Delaware’s alcohol-related traffic deaths in 2016 involved drivers with BACs between .05 and .08. The majority of them involved drivers with a BAC of .15 and higher.
Delaware would be the second state to implement such a measure; Utah is currently the only state that has lowered the BAC threshold to .05 percent. The bill’s sponsor hopes that the legislation will increase road safety and help reduce the frequency of alcohol-related crashes and deaths.
If you were injured or your loved one was killed in a drunk driving accident, contact an experienced Wilmington car accident lawyer at Rhoades & Morrow. We will fight to hold negligent parties accountable and get you maximum compensation for your injuries and losses. Call us today at 302-427-9500 for a free consultation about your case. You can also contact us online. We have three convenient locations in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford serving clients throughout the state of Delaware.