Lowering the blood alcohol content level can reduce drunk driving deaths

opsdrunkdrivingcopacopaIt’s an ugly truth: Each year, about 10,000 lives are lost in the United States because of drunk driving. It’s a nationwide cause for concern: On average, one person dies every hour because of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the country. It’s an epidemic that hits close to home: In 2012, the University of California Police Department dealt with 32 DUI cases — seven of those involved students, according to the UCPD.

In response to the damage caused by drivers who simply refuse to call a cab after a night of drinking and partying, a new proposal in the state of Utah is asking for the the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit to be lowered to 0.05 percent from 0.08 percent. At the same time, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is urging all 50 states to lower their limits as well. It’s an idea that has irked a few states refusing to adjust. But when considering the measurable benefits, it’s clear to see that lowering the BAC would result in so many lives being saved.

The blood alcohol content limit is a regulation put in place to reduce the number of nationwide fatalities due to drunk driving. And it has done just that. Since it was enacted, annual deaths due to drunk driving have been cut in half over the span of three decades — down 53 percent since first measured in 1982. Additionally, drunk-driving fatalities declined 2.5 percent in 2011 to 9,878 compared to the previous year.

These are encouraging statistics, but to be fair, one might argue that the current BAC limit is becoming more and more unnecessary given that DUI fatalities in the U.S. have decreased in recent years. However, consider this: If DUI-related fatalities have gone down in recent years because of the law that we have in place now, just think of how much lower they could get if the laws were made stricter. Think of all the lives that could be saved if we decide to lower the blood alcohol content limit. In fact, there are actual examples that clearly show that lives could definitely be saved.

The NTSB noted that more than 100 countries already have limits of 0.05 percent. When a country like Australia dropped its blood alcohol content limit to 0.05 percent, there was a 5 to 18 percent drop in traffic fatalities, according to the NTSB. In New South Wales, the number of fatalities due to drunk driving decreased by 8 percent. When Sweden dropped its already-low 0.05 percent BAC level to 0.02 percent, the alcohol-related fatalities declined from 31 percent to 18 percent in an eight-year span. As these countries have shown, when the BAC limit is lowered nationwide, the number of drunk driving deaths have fallen significantly.

These instances clearly show that lives could definitely be saved if the laws in this country are altered. It shows that with this proposed regulation, people would have a greater incentive to think twice before deciding to drink and drive. It’s not just wishful thinking. It’s a proven fact. If other countries can do it and if it works for them, why shouldn’t we follow their example?

It’s also a problem that affects residents near our campus. Just a few weeks ago, a UC Riverside student was driving down University Avenue after a night of drinking and eventually slammed his vehicle into the patrol car of a University of California Police Department officer. The officer received injuries and the squad car was totaled.

Just think of the results in this case: A police officer was injured, an underage student was arrested and a multi-purpose vehicle was totaled. These are three needless costs that could have been prevented if the driver had a greater incentive not to drink and drive. This new proposed regulation would be that added incentive.

Large amounts of people are affected by this epidemic and the number of deaths due to drunk drivers is still high. It’s a huge problem that’s been plaguing the United States for years, and this proposal would be a way to start combating the issue.

Salt Lake City Public Policy Director Derek Monson is an advocate for the law and strongly believes that the limit will work. “(Research suggests) that it is clear that 0.05 is a much safer standard than 0.08 in terms of your ability to drive safely, as well as the reality of people getting into accidents and causing other harm,” he stated about the new proposal.

He’s right. This issue is about safety. It’s about the injuries that can be prevented, the arrests that can be avoided, the money that could go unspent and the lives that can be saved.

The blood alcohol content limit must be lowered — not just in Utah, but in the entire country. It’s a regulation that will benefit so many people. This will be a life-saver, not a nuisance.

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