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DRUNK DRIVING

Alcohol is a major factor in traffic accidents. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Admininstration (NHTSA) there is an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 40 minutes.

Alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, the legal definition of drunk driving. According to NHTSA, 12,998 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2007, down 3.7 percent from 13,491 in 2006. In 2007 alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 32 percent of all crash fatalities. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2007. The arrest rate works out to one arrest for every 142 licensed drivers in the United States, based on 2006 licensed drivers (latest data available).

The definition of drunk driving is consistent throughout the United States. Every state and the District of Columbia defines impairment as driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at or above 0.08 percent. In addition, they all have zero tolerance laws prohibiting drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. Generally the BAC in these cases is 0.02 percent..

Antidrunk driving campaigns especially target drivers under the age of 21, 
repeat offenders and 21-to 34-year-olds, the age group that is responsible for more 
alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other. Young drivers are those least responsive to arguments against drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To make sellers and servers of liquor more careful about to whom and how they serve drinks, 43 states and the District of Columbia hold liquor servers legally liable for the damage and injuries a drunk driver causes. 

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS 

Drunk Driving by Gender: A study released in August 2010 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that over the past year, one out of five drivers age 16 and over in the United States had driven a motor vehicle within two hours of drinking alcohol. About two-thirds of those drivers had done so in the past 30 days. The results of this study were used to estimate that 17.2 million drivers, or 8.2 percent of all drivers, had driven one or more times in the past year when they thought they were over the legal limit defining drunk driving. In addition, more than four out of five people (81 percent) saw drinking and driving by others as a major threat to their personal safety. The survey was conducted from September to December 2008.

A NHTSA study shows an increasing trend among women driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). NHTSA found that from 2007 to 2008 the number of impaired women drivers involved in fatal crashes increased in 10 states and remained flat in five states, despite an overall decline of 9 percent in all drunk driver crashes during the same period. The study confirms FBI statistics showing that arrests for women driving under the influence increased by nearly 30 percent  over the 10-year period from 1998 to 2007. Over that same decade, DUI arrests for men decreased by 7.5 percent, although the total number of men arrested during the period outstripped women by about four to one.

Drunk Driving by Age: According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009, the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who were alcohol impaired was highest for 21-24 year old drivers, at 35 percent, followed by 25-34 year old drivers, at 32 percent, and 35 to 44 year old drivers, at 26 percent.

BACKGROUND

Awareness of the problems associated with drunk driving increased dramatically in the 1990s in response to the rise of citizen activist groups, notably Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), and to advertising campaigns and publicity efforts by organizations such as the Insurance Information Institute. Existing laws were strengthened, new laws were passed and drunk driving task forces were created in several states. In addition, there was a noticeable change in attitudes toward drinking and driving.

Federal Legislation: In 1984 Congress enacted legislation that required highway construction funds to be withheld from states that did not adopt 21 as the legal drinking age for alcoholic beverages, the first time federal legislation used financial incentives to persuade states to enact drunk driving laws. The Omnibus Drug Initiative Act of 1988 (also called the Drunk Driving Prevention Act), helped to increase the adoption of the administrative license revocation law (ALR), which allows a driver's license to be seized when his or her BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is over the level that defines driving while intoxicated or when the driver refuses to take a BAC test. It has been shown to be one of the most effective deterrents to drunk driving. Other laws enacted include those that prohibit open alcoholic beverage containers in the passenger compartments of motor vehicles, make BAC tests mandatory for drivers involved in serious or fatal accidents, prevent drivers under 21 from obtaining alcohol and provide for vehicle registration cancellation when drivers have had their licenses suspended or revoked due to alcohol-related offenses.  Continued           
Used with permission of iii.org
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Drunk Driving