Safety

Stricter State Alcohol Access Rules can Save 800 DUI Deaths a Year, Study Says

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, more than 1 million people were arrested for driving under the influence, which is just 1 percent of the more than 110 million people each year who report they have driven while intoxicated.

Crashes involving an intoxicated driver kill 29 people a day, which equates to one death every 50 minutes. Progress has been made in reducing the number of crash deaths with age-21-minimum drinking laws and the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol limit, but that decrease has stalled, and in the past couple years, has begun to increase again.

A new study published in JAMA finds that strengthening state alcohol policies by a mere 10 percent can reduce the odds of an alcohol-impaired crash fatality by the same amount.

"If all states today increased the strength of their alcohol policies by 10 percent, it would save about 800 lives a year," said study co-author Dr. Timothy Naimi—an alcohol policy expert at Boston Medical Center's Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit.

Stronger policies, especially imposing alcohol taxes and limiting outlet density, reduced deaths among drivers with alcohol blood levels below 0.08 percent.

Because research shows that the risk of crashes starts to increase at much lower levels than 0.08 percent, many developed nations have blood alcohol limits of 0.05 percent or even lower. In the United States, both the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the National Transportation Safety Board have called for lowering the limit to 0.05 percent in all states.

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