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Drunken Driving Crackdown Working

April 28, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The proportion of traffic deaths blamed on alcohol use has fallen from 57 percent to 39 percent since the states started cracking down on drunken driving in the early 1980s, according to a government-sponsored study released Wednesday

The study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers the period 1982 through 1997. Those dates are bookends from the year when federal accident reports started recording alcohol involvement to the year for which the most current accident data are available.

Over that same span, the percentage of the United States population living under a .10 blood-alcohol drunken driving limit has increased from 32 percent to 98 percent.

Meanwhile, the percentage covered by laws allowing for license revocations has increased from 6 percent to 78 percent. Also, the percentage of the population covered by the lower .08 blood-alcohol limited increased from none to 28 percent during that period.

Sixteen states currently have a .08 drunken driving limit, while 40 states have laws allowing administrative license revocation. Another study released by NHTSA on Wednesday said that if all 50 states adopted the two laws, it would save 925 lives a year.

While other studies have shown that the laws were effective in reducing drunken driving, NHTSA said its study was the most comprehensive look at the laws.

Fatal accident reporting data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia was examined for the 16-year time period. The study controlled for the effects of trends in demographic, economic, alcohol consumption and seasonal factors, as well as for an increase in the number of states with safety belt use laws.

``The attribution of savings to any single law should be made with caution since each new law builds to some extent on existing legislation and on other ongoing trends and activities,″ wrote the study’s authors, Robert B. Voas and A. Scott Tippetts of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation of Bethesda, Md.

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