See also: .08 BAC Facts
not Fairy Tales
Lowering the BAC to .08 is a Step in the Wrong
See also: American Beverage Institute
Reducing the legal blood alcohol limit to .08% is an
unproven approach that doesn't focus on the real cause of
the drunk driving problem. Here are the facts:
- Great success in the fight against drunk
driving - Nationwide, the number of fatalities
involving a drunk driver has declined by 41% since 1982.
And the number of fatalities involving a teenaged drunk
driver has dropped by an astonishing 65% over the same
period. Additional progress needs to recognize the
success that has already occurred, and why it has taken
- Education and awareness efforts paying off -
The American public is now keenly ware of the dangers of
drunk driving. For example, according to a 1998 survey,
109 million American adults say that they have been a
designated driver or been driven home by one. The poll
found that 91% of adult say it is a "good" or "excellent"
idea to use a designated driver.
- Attention should be paid to the "high-BAC"
driver - The drunk driving problem persist largely
because of a stubborn group of hard core repeat offenders
who drink to very high levels of intoxication and then
drive. Less than 2% of all auto fatalities in 1998
involved a driver with a BAC between .08 and .10, while
27% of all fatalities involved a driver with a BAC above
.15. It is critical to target high-BAC drivers, since
they are involved in 14 times more traffic deaths than
- An unfair attract on all drinkers - Proponents
claim they are not anti-alcohol, but in reality .08 laws
must be seen as a first step toward making it a criminal
offense to drive after any drinking. MADD has publicly
stated that this is a long-term goal - to legislate a
"zero tolerance policy" that criminalizes anyone who
drinks and drives, even if they are not intoxicated and
not a menace on the road. This is unfair overreaction,
since the objective evidence shows that drunk driving
fatalities are overwhelmingly caused by hard-core,
high-BAC drivers, not social drinkers.
- Per se .08 laws aren't needed - Many states
already have laws that provide for a drunk driving
conviction if a person is visibly impaired, even if their
BAC is below .10 percent. For example, if a driver is
swerving, runs a stop sign and can't walk a straight
line, but registers at .08 percent BAC, they can already
be convicted in most states. That is a fairer approach
than automatically arresting everyone between .08 and
.10, even if they show no visible signs of
- There's a lack of evidence that .08 works
--Although some people claim that hundreds of live could
be saved if all states had a .08 law, the U. S. General
Accounting Office says that such a claim is not
justified, based on its comprehensive analysis of the
scientific studies currently available on this issue. The
GAO specifically describes one study's conclusion - that
500 to 600 lives could be saved each year - as
- There are better approaches available - Most
states are rejecting .08 laws in favor of other
approaches. Last year, despite much arm-twisting by the
federal government, nearly 20 states considered .08
proposals and rejected them. Instead of .08 policy makers
should enact laws that can effectively deal with high BAC
repeat offenders ... and exercise the kind of oversight
necessary to insure that those laws are effectively
enforced and prosecuted. That way, the tremendous
improvements of the 1980's and '90's can be matched, or
bettered, in the coming decade.
"Drunk Driving: keep the focus on real solutions,
a .08% BAC law will not reduce alcohol-related traffic
fatalities" Industry & Government Affairs,
Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc.
We all would like to eliminate drunk driving from our
nation's roadways completely. Unfortunately, some approaches
to reduce drunk driving may be well-intentioned, but they
just don't work.
Objectively looking at the facts clearly shows that
enthusiasm for lowering the permissible BAC limit to .08% is
misguided. Not only is it ineffective, but the .08 issue
diverts valuable attentions from real solutions and creates
a class of "criminals" who are not the source of the
nation's drunk driving problem.
The following pages:
- provide some basic facts concerning drunk driving in
the U. S.,
- show why .08% BAC laws are off-target, and
- offer some alternative approaches that hold more
promise of making a real impact on drunk
Drunk Driving Fatalities at New Lows
Many people believe that drunk driving, and especially
teenaged drunk driving are much worse today than they were a
few years ago.
According to the latest data from the U. S. Department of
- Nationwide, the total number of fatalities in crashes
involving a drunk driver (BAC of .10 or higher) has
dropped from 18,444 in 1982 to 10,959 in 1998 - a 41%
- This has occurred even though there are more drivers
on the road, driving more miles each year. The fatality
rate involving drunk drivers in 1982 was 11.6 death per
billion miles driven, versus 4.2 in 1998 - a decline of
Chart: Total Fatalities in Drunk-Driving Crashes
Teen Fatalities Down Even More
- It comes as a surprise to many people that the
success in fighting teenaged drunk driving is even
- According to the NHTSA, the number of people killed
in crashes involving a teenaged drunk driver dropped from
3,597 in 1982 to 1,264 in 1998 - a 65% decline.
- Taking into account the increase in driving over the
same period, the fatality rate involving teen drunk
drivers in 1982 was 2.26 death per billion miles driven,
compared to 0.48 in 1998.
- That's nearly 5 times higher in 1982 than it
Chart Total Fatalities in Teen Drunk-Driving Crashes
Education & Awareness Efforts
These remarkable statistics reflect a sustained effort
on the part of thousands of concerned groups and civic
organizations, private business and government.
The brewing industry has also been heavily involved in
the fight against drunk driving"
- Anheuser-Busch's newest commitment, its "We All Make
a Difference" campaign, and similar programs by other
brewers, represent an investment of millions of dollars
in the last 10 years, creating billions of viewer
reminders not to drink and drive.
- The brewing industry does more to promote the
responsible and moderate use of its products then any
other industry whose products can potentially be misused
- Industry programs combat underage drinking, promote
designated driver usage, discourage campus alcohol
abuse...even train alcohol servers in ways to reduce over
consumption among their customers.
Designated Drivers on the Rise
Obviously, the American public is now keenly aware of
the dangers of driving drunk...and the vast majority of us
are taking precautions against it.
For example, more and more people now use a designated
driver. According to a 1998 poll by Data Development
Corporation, use of designated drivers is very popular - 109
million American adults have been a designated driver or
been driven home by one!
This same poll found that 91 % of adults say it is a
"good" or "excellent" idea to use a designated driver.
The Public: 91% say Designated Driver
Programs are a Good or Excellent Idea
Despite these gains, a key problem remains - the "hard-core"
To understand the critical role of high-BAC drivers in
the drunk driving problem, consider a few basic facts:
- Almost 6-0% of all driving fatalities involve no
alcohol at all, but are caused by other factors such
- excessive speed,
- driver inattention,
- poor road conditions, and
- use of illicit drugs.
- Of those fatalities which do involve alcohol,
the vast majority involve so-called "hard core" drinking
drivers who consume to very high levels of
- 27% of all driver fatalities involve drunk driving
offenders who have BACs of .15% or higher.
- Only 2% of all driver fatalities involve "low-BAC"
drivers with BACs between .08 and .10.
This breakdown of driver fatalities, by BAC is shown in
the bar chart on the following page.
BACs Among Fatally Injured Drivers, 1998
It is critical that we strategically target high-BAC
drivers. They are involved in 14 times more traffic
deaths than .08-.10 BAC drivers!
Separating Myth from Fact on .08
Myth: Hundreds of lives could be saved if all
states adopted a .08 law.
NHTSA and MADD often cite a study by sociologist Ralph
Hingson that claims 500-600 lives would be saved each year
if all states had a .08 law.
However, a recent U. S. General Accounting Office (GAO)
report, Highway Safety: Effectiveness of State .08 Blood
Alcohol Laws, has evaluated the Hingson study and found
"this study has been criticized by many traffic safety
experts both inside and outside of NHTSA and has
methodological limitations that call its results into
GAO states that:
"the study's conclusion that 500 to 600 fewer fatal
crashes would occur annually if all states had .08 BAC laws
is unfounded." 9p. 15, emphasis added).
Three Newer Studies
In April, 1999, NHTSA released three new .08 studies,
again claiming that they provide additional support for the
claim that .08 BAC laws help to reduce alcohol-related
However, the GAO report finds numerous instances where
NHTSA has again overstated facts concerning these new
- One study omitted persons under age 21 from the
analysis. GAO calls this an arbitrary decision and finds
that including them "...would have change the study
results," yielding "...no statistically significant
reductions associated with .08 BAC laws for drivers
at low BAC levels" (p. 22, emphasis added).
- The second study, which examined .08 effects in 11
states, found statistically significant effects in only 2
of the ll states studied - he other 9 failed in the
And the third study, a single-state analysis of North
Carolina concluded that the state's .08 law had "no
statistically significant decrease in alcohol-related
crashes" after the .08 laws went into effect (p.19).
Conclusion: The scientific evidence does not demonstrate
that .08 BAC laws reduce alcohol-related crashes, despite
claims by NHTSA and the activists.
MYTH: California's experience with .08 proves its
Although frequently cited as evidence of the
effectiveness of .08 legislation, the California Department
of Motor Vehicles disagrees, stating that it could find:
"...no statically significant effects associated with the
time of the .08% law."
Source: "The General Deterrent Impact
of California's .08% Blood Alcohol Concentration
Limit and Administrative Pre Se License
Research and Development Section, Division of
Program and Policy Administration,
California Department of Motor Vehicles
MYTH: Most states are adopting the .08 BAC standard.
Despite heavy-handed efforts by the federal government to
push .08 legislation onto the states, most states have
rejected this approach
In 1999, only Texas has adopted the .08, while 16 other
states considered and rejected it:
States Rejecting .08 legislation States
Adopting .08 legislation
Rhode Island 7/2000
Better Approaches Do Exist
So many states have rejected .08 simply because lawmakers
have come to understand that there are many other approaches
available to them that can increase the certainty that a
drunk driver is caught, convicted and
adequately punished...and which give special
consideration to the core problem of high-BAC offenders.
Example: graduated penalties
States are starting to enact statutes which impose
different penalties based on the BAC of an offender.
Arizona's recent "Loper's law," for example, imposes harsher
penalties if an offender's BAC exceeds .18 and for repeat
Possible extensions to this approach include:
- Mandatory medical and psychological assessments for
- Tiered penalties, tied to a wider range of BAC
levels, for repeat offenders,
- Reducing judicial discretion in sentencing,
especially for high-BAC offenders, and
- Applying administrative actions to lower-BAC
offenders, and both administrative and criminal actions
to high-BAC offenders.
Anheuser-Busch and the brewing industry strongly support
meaningful and effective efforts to reduce drunk driving on
our nation's roadways.
But .08 BAC laws aren't the answer - the are actually a
step in the wrong direction.
Instead of approaches like .08, policy makers will
accomplish far more by keeping their focus on the
real source of the drunk driving problem. That means
enacting laws that can effectively deal with high-BAC repeat
offenders...and exercising the kind of oversight necessary
to insure that those laws are effectively enforced
In that way, the enormous improvements of the 1980s and
90s can me matched, or bettered, in the coming decade.