See also: American Beverage Institute
See also: Lowering the BAC

.08 BAC: Facts Not Fairy Tales

Preface

The American Beverage Institute wants you to believe in fairy tales. Supposedly silver bullets are used to kill vampires and werewolves. The Lone Ranger used silver bullets to correct wrongs on television in the Old West where the problems were always solved in 30 to 60 minutes. There is no "magic" concerning the lowering of the .08 blood alcohol level among drinking drivers. It takes hard work and determination. Those who choose not to act responsibly by driving after drinking, put everyone in danger. It is assault with a deadly weapon. Drunk driving is the most common criminal activity in Iowa with approximately 20,000 arrests per year.

Lowering the BAC to .08 is a Step in the Wrong Direction
Accompanying Four Pages:

"State efforts to control alcohol-impaired driving through new legislation gained momentum during the early 1980's. Motivated in large measure by grassroots activism as reflected in such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID), many states passed new and tougher laws, strengthened the enforcement of existing laws, and initiated public information campaigns. In addition, media attention to this problem increased dramatically during the same period."1

"High alcohol" is defined as BAC 0.10 g/dl or greater. Persons with a BAC of 0.10 g/dl or greater involved in crashes are considered to be intoxicated, the definition by NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) and FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System).

"In 1998, 30 percent of all traffic fatalities occurred in crashes in which at least one driver or non occupant had a BAC of 0.10 d/dl or greater. Seventy percent of the 12,456 people killed in such crashes were themselves intoxicated. For all crashes the alcohol involvement rate is 5 times as high at night (16 percent vs. 3 percent.)

"The remaining 30 percent were passengers, non intoxicated drivers, or non intoxicated non occupants. The rate of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes is about 4 times as high at night as during the day (60 percent vs. 17 percent). In 1998, 20 percent of all fatal crashes during the week were alcohol-related, compared to 52 percent on weekends. For all crashes, the alcohol involvement rate was 5 percent during the week and 12 percent during the weekend. Fatally injured drivers with BAC levels of 0.10 g/dl or greater were 6 times as likely to have a prior conviction for driving while intoxicated compared to fatally injured sober drivers (1 percent and 2 percent respectively)."2

IOWA ALCOHOL RELATED STATISTICS 1998
Alcohol related crashes are more injurious and deadly than other crashes.

Alcohol Related Crashes Fatalities and Injuries
Total Crash Fatalities and Injuries
Alcohol Related Crashes
Percent of Total
79 Driver Fatalities
294 Driver Fatalities
26.8% Driver Fatalities
32 Passenger Fatalities
130 Vehicle Occupant Fatalities
24.6 % of Total Injuries
3 Pedestrian Fatalities
25 Pedestrian Fatalities
12% of Total Pedestrian Fatalities
114 Total Fatalities
449 Total Fatalities
25.3% of Total Fatalities
2,406 Total Injuries
37,659 Total Injuries
6.3% of Total Injuries
2,671 Total Crashes
64,041 Total Crashes
4.1% of Total Crashes
(Statistics from 1998 Iowa Crash Summary)

Per se laws imply a presumption of intoxication which may lead to an arrest. However, it is a long way from arrest to conviction by a judge and or jury who were not witnesses to the events.

GAO Study Conclusions:
"While indications are that .08 BAC laws in combination with other drunk driving laws as well as sustained public education and information efforts and strong enforcement can be effective, the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol. Until recently, limited published evidence existed on the effectiveness of .08 BAC laws, and NHTSA's position--that this evidence was conclusive--was overstated. In 1999, more comprehensive studies have been published that show many positive results, and NHTSA's characterization of the results has been more balances. Nevertheless, these studies fall short of providing conclusive evidence that .08 BAC laws by themselves have been responsible for reductions in fatal crashes.

"Because a state enacting a .08 BAC law may or may not see a decline in alcohol-related fatalities, it is difficult to accurately predict how many lives would be saved if all states passed .08 BAC laws. The effect of a .08 BAC laws depends on a number of factors, including the degree to which the law is publicized; how well it is enforced; other drunk driving laws in effect; and the unique culture of each state, particularly public attitudes concerning alcohol.

"As drunk driving continues to claim the lives of thousands of Americans each year, governments at all levels seek solutions. Many states are considering enacting .08 BAC laws, and the Congress is considering requiring all states to enact these laws. Although a strong causal link between .08 BAC laws by themselves and reductions in traffic fatalities is absent, other evidence, including medical evidence on impairment, should be considered when evaluating the effectiveness of .08 BAC laws. A .08 BAC law can be an important component of a state's overall highway safety program, but a .08 BAC law alone is not a "silver bullet." Highway safety research shows that the best countermeasure against drunk driving is a combination of laws, sustained public education, and vigorous enforcement."3

________
Zador, P. L.; Lund, A. K.; Fields, M.; Weinberg, K.; "Fatal crash involvement and laws against alcohol-impaired driving," JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY (1989), Winter: 467-485.
"Traffic Safety Facts 1998, Alcohol, DOT HS 808 950, U. S. Department of Transportation , National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Highway safety: effectiveness of state .08 blood alcohol laws," Washington, D. C.: United States General Accounting Office, Report to Congressional Committees, 1999, 22-3.

Chart 1

Iowa - Alcohol-Related Fatal Crashes Per Billion VMTs, 1982-1998 (actual and trendlines)

The Source cited is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Fatality Analysis Accident System, various years
*Total Fatalities Involving a Teenaged Drunk Driver

National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations calculates its mileage in VMTs (vehicle miles traveled per million) and the State of Iowa calculates its mileage in VKT (vehicle kilometers traveled per billion). We don't know if these are statistics by tens, hundreds, thousands, or millions.

Statistics for the State of Iowa in 1995 show a total of 27 teens were involved in fatal crashes, however the level of alcohol is not shown. Statistics for the State of Iowa in 1998 showed alcohol involvement wherein 79 vehicle drivers were killed along with 32 passengers and 3 pedestrians in 2671 crashes with 1504 personal injuries. In total 424 drivers, 130 passengers, and 25 pedestrians were killed in 64,041 crashes with 24,471 personal injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's fatality calculation system is called FARS - Fatality Analysis Record System not Fatality Analysis Accident System.

In 1995, in Iowa the total number of drinking drivers killed was 142 the chart was not broken down by alcohol level.

"1995 Iowa crash facts: a compilation of motor vehicle crash statistics on Iowa roadways," Office of Driver Services, Iowa Department of Transportation, Des Moines, Iowa, 1995.

Chart 2
Iowa -- Fatalities in Crashes Involving a Drunk Driver, 1982-1998 (actual and trendlines)

The Source cited is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Fatality Analysis Accident System, various years

Total Fatalities Involving a Teenaged Drunk Driver

NHTSA defines a drunk driver as anyone who has > 0.10 BAC.

In 1995, in Iowa there were 104 fatal crashes with drivers whose BAC was > .10.

Teen drivers' BACs are not broken out by BAC level.

Teen Drivers, Alcohol Fatalities, Injuries and Crashes in Iowa
1995 Iowa Crash Facts

Alcohol Fatalities
Total Crashes Fatalities and Injuries
Percentages of Total
160 Fatalities
527 Fatalities
30.3% Fatalities
29 Driver Fatalities
Aged 14-20
527 Fatalities
5.5% Fatalities
113 Driver Fatalities Over 20
527 Fatalities
21.4% Fatalities
Alcohol Related Crashes 2982
76,203 Total Crashes
3.9% of Crashes
350 Injured by Drunk Drivers
Aged 20 and Under
38,992 Total Injured
0.9% of Injured

BAC Level of Drinking Drivers

Blood Alcohol Content

Drinking Drivers
Fatal Crashes
Injury Crashes
Number
Percent
Number
Percent
.019 & Lower
3
2.11 %
58
2.06%
.020-.039
7
4.94%
27
1.42%
.040-.079
11
7.75%
59
3.11%
.08-.099
8
5.63%
48
2.53%
.100 & Higher
104
73.24%
505
26.58%
Unknown
9
6.34%
1,2000
63.29%
Total
142
100.00%
1,896
100.00%

Physical Condition of All Drivers

Physical Conditions

Drivers
Fatal Crashes
Injury Crashes
Number
Percent
Number
Percent

Apparently Normal

62
19.94%
949
27l71%

Fatigued

0
0.0%
1
0.03%

Apparently Asleep

0
0.0%
0
0.0%

Infirmities of Age

0
0.0%
1
0.03%

Drinking-Not Impaired

58
18.65%
748
21.84%

Drinking-Impaired

173
55.63%
1,677
48.96%

Drugs

0
0.0%
7
0.20%

Other

0
0.0%
3
0.09%

Unknown

18
5.79%
39
1.14%

Total

311
100.00%
3,425
100.00%

 

Chart 3
Blood alcohol levels among fatally injured drivers in Iowa, 1998

The source of the pie chart information is shown to be for FARS. FARS breaks down the BAC levels in the following categories: No Alcohol (BAC = 0.00 g/dl); Low Alcohol (BAC = 0.01-0.09 g/dl); High Alcohol (BAC > 0.10 g/dl); and Any Alcohol (BAC > 0.01 g/dl).

The State of Iowa breaks out the Drinking Driver BAC Levels as: .019 & Lower; .020 - .039; .040 - .079; .080 - .099; .100 & higher; and Unknown.

"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.

Page 3

Chart: Total Fatalities in Drunk-Driving Crashes

These numbers are not from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The numbers shown are far below the "Traffic Safety Facts 1998: State Traffic Data".

Page 4

Chart: Total Fatalities in Teen Drunk-Driving Crashes
These numbers are far below the numbers of fatalities listed on the Traffic Safety Facts 1998: Young Drivers.

 

Page 7

NHTSA and FARS does not collect data on BACs .08 - .10. FARS breaks down the BAC levels in the following categories: No Alcohol (BAC = 0.00 g/dl); Low Alcohol (BAC = 0.01-0.09 g/dl); High Alcohol (BAC > 0.10 g/dl); and Any Alcohol (BAC > 0.01 g/dl). The State of Iowa breaks out the Drinking Driver BAC Levels as: .019 & Lower; .020 - .039; .040 - .079; .080 - .099; .100 & higher; and information source is unknown.

Page 8
BACs Among Fatally Injured Drivers, 1998

 

Page 10
GAO Study Conclusions:

"While indications are that .08 BAC laws in combination with other drunk driving laws as well as sustained public education and information efforts and strong enforcement can be effective, the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol. Until recently, limited published evidence existed on the effectiveness of .08 BAC laws, and NHTSA's position--that this evidence was conclusive--was overstated. In 1999, more comprehensive studies have been published that show many positive results, and NHTSA's characterization of the results has been more balances. Nevertheless, these studies fall short of providing conclusive evidence that .08 BAC laws by themselves have been responsible for reductions in fatal crashes.

"Because a state enacting a .08 BAC law may or may not see a decline in alcohol-related fatalities, it is difficult to accurately predict how many lives would be saved if all states passed .08 BAC laws. The effect of a .08 BAC laws depends on a number of factors, including the degree to which the law is publicized; how well it is enforced; other drunk driving laws in effect; and the unique culture of each state, particularly public attitudes concerning alcohol.

"As drunk driving continues to claim the lives of thousands of Americans each year, governments at all levels seek solutions. Many states are considering enacting .08 BAC laws, and the Congress is considering requiring all states to enact these laws. Although a strong causal link between .08 BAC laws by themselves and reductions in traffic fatalities is absent, other evidence, including medical evidence on impairment, should be considered when evaluating the effectiveness of .08 BAC laws. A .08 BAC law can be an important component of a state's overall highway safety program, but a .08 BAC law alone is not a "silver bullet." Highway safety research shows that the best countermeasure against drunk driving is a combination of laws, sustained public education, and vigorous enforcement." "Highway safety: effectiveness of state .08 blood alcohol laws," Washington, D. C.: United States General Accounting Office, Report to Congressional Committees, 1999, 22-3.

Page 11

"In two states where no statistically significant reduction occurred after .08 BAC laws became effective in any category--California and Virginia--the study found that the .08 BAC laws were effective when paired with the state's license revocation laws. In both cases, the license revocation laws went into effect after the .08 BAC laws, and the study found that the reductions did not begin until the license revocation laws were in force." "Highway safety: effectiveness of state .08 blood alcohol laws," Washington, D. C.: United States General Accounting Office, Report to Congressional Committees, 1999, p.18.

 

"Economic perspectives in alcoholism research," ALCOHOL ALERT (January, 2001), 51. (Economic analysis is used to estimate the costs of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Based on 1992 data, researchers estimate 45 % of costs was borne by alcohol abusers and their families, 20% by the Federal Government, 18% by State and local government, 10 % by private insurance companies, and 6% by the victims of alcohol-related crashes. Higher taxes on alcoholic beverages have been linked to lower traffic fatality rates.) Address: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa51.htm

updated 12/12/16