NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Report Says Just Lowering Blood-alcohol Limits Won't Save Lives

June 25, 1999

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contends that simply lowering the blood-alcohol content limit for drivers would reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes. But the General Accounting Office disputes that, saying that accidents and deaths cannot be prevented by that measure alone, since other factors must be present.

  • In order to be effective, says the GAO, lowering the blood-alcohol limit must be accompanied by strict enforcement measures and revocation of the driver's licenses of those who drink to excess.
  • Most states set the limit at .10, or one-tenth of 1 percent alcohol in the blood -- but 16 states have lowered the limit to .08.
  • Last year, the Clinton administration endorsed a bill that would have required all states to enact the lower limit or face cuts in federal highway funds.-- which the Senate passed, while the House did not.
  • The GAO findings come a month after the NHTSA reported that alcohol-related deaths hit a record low per-miles- driven in 1998.

In all, 41,480 people were killed on the nation's roads last year, with alcohol involved in 38.4 percent of deaths. In 1997, there were 42,103 fatalities, with alcohol involved in 38.5 percent.

Source: Paul Hoverston, "Lower Blood-Alcohol Limit Is Not a Cure- All, GAO Says," USA Today, June 25, 1999.


Browse more articles on Government Issues