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Experts Are Pushing To Change Drunk Driving Laws

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Public health experts are pushing for drastic changes in policies and laws aimed at ending deaths caused by drunk driving by legally lowering the amount of alcohol consumed before being allowed to drive.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which is independent but mostly government-funded, provides advice on national health policies. A panel of professionals under the organization releases a consensus study report said to be a “comprehensive approach” to the chronic problem of drunk driving, Gizmodo reports.

The panel was made up of 13 experts from institutions such as Yale University, Johns Hopkins and the University of California. The resulting report summarizes existing proof on policies that aim to reduce deaths caused by drunk driving. It emphasized the success the United States has had in decreasing drunk driving mortality since the 1980s, when the legal age for drinking was raised to 21.

However, the numbers have remained stagnant in recent years. From 2009 to 2015, for instance, drunk driving deaths have stayed at around 10,000 annually.

The report concluded that the only way for the numbers to drop significantly in the near future is to take extreme measures such as banning alcohol sales at gas stations, expanding specialized courts that give counseling to repeat drunk driving offenders, development and implementation of technologies that will prevent drunk people from starting their cars, and most of all, changing the laws that decree when someone is too drunk to drive.

The current limit to get arrested for driving under the influence is a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 or higher. The report states that this should be lowered to .05 instead, as there are many factors influencing how drunk a person can get in a certain amount of time.

Steven Teutsch, a researcher at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health and committee chair, said,

The plateauing fatality rates indicate that what has been done to decrease deaths from alcohol-impaired driving has been working but is no longer sufficient to reverse this growing public health problem.

He added, “Our report offers a comprehensive blueprint to reinvigorate commitment and calls for systematic implementation of policies, programs, and systems changes to renew progress and save lives.”



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