Drunk drivers have only selves to blame for tougher laws

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

You'll still be able to have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with your pizza, but you'd better monitor your drinking a little closer if the National Transportation Safety Board has its way.

The federal safety board recommended that states cut the drunken driving threshold from .08 to .05, a move that has cut drunken driving by half in the decade since it was enacted in Europe.

The NTSB can't directly force states to change the law, but pressure applied through federal highway funding can accomplish the same end, as it did in the 1980s and 1990s, when the drinking age was raised to 21 and the blood alcohol level was lowered to .08.

It seems to have worked; 21,000 people were killed in drunken-driving accidents in 1982, 48 percent of highway deaths, compared to fewer than 10,000 deaths today.

An insurance group estimates than more than 7,000 deaths would have prevented in 2010 if all drivers had a blood alcohol content below .08 percent.

But the lower alcohol level was only one of the recommendations the NTSB made. It also called for increasing use of ignition interlock devices -- only about a quarter of drivers ordered to use the devices actually end up doing so -- and additional research into technology that can detect whether a driver has elevated blood alcohol to prevent the car from starting.

Another recommendation is increased use of "passive alcohol devices" by police, devices built into flashlights or contained in cellphone-like devices that, when pointed at a driver, will alert police when alcohol is suspected.

The increasing use of electronic monitoring, ignition interlocks and remote alcohol sensors seems like a threat to civil liberties, but such measures wouldn't be an issue if drivers would stay off the road when they've had too much to drink.

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  • I don't actually drink, but if I did I wouldn't be blaming myself. I would be blaming all of the brain-dead authoritarian crisis-then-control freaks running our country.

    -- Posted by shallal on Wed, May 22, 2013, at 11:30 AM
  • I'm a little surprised that no one has brought up marajuana yet, since the whole drunk driving thing is usually brought up as a point by supporters whenever the subject of legalizing marajuana comes up. Must be because of graduation season.

    -- Posted by bjo on Thu, May 23, 2013, at 9:12 AM
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