Science panel’s sweeping recommendations on drunken driving

By the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s more than 10,000 drunken driving deaths a year are “entirely preventable,” according to a government-commissioned report released Wednesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Here are the report’s key recommendations for addressing the problem:

• States should pass laws lowering their drunken driving thresholds from a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 to 0.05. Studies show the ability to operate a vehicle begins to deteriorate at low BAC levels. Countries that have lowered their BAC to 0.05 like Austria, Denmark and Japan have successfully reduced drunken driving deaths.

• States and the federal government should increase alcohol taxes significantly. Strong evidence shows higher alcohol taxes reduce binge drinking and related driving crashes, but alcohol taxes have declined when adjusted for inflation. Congress passed a law last month decreasing federal alcohol excise taxes by about 16 percent.

• State and local governments should take steps to limit or reduce alcohol availability, including reducing the hours and days that stores, bars and restaurants can sell alcohol. Enforcement of laws prohibiting alcohol sales to people under 21 or who are already intoxicated should be stepped up to prevent binge drinking.

• Federal, state and local governments should curb alcohol advertising and marketing, and fund advertising designed to counter alcohol marketing. The alcohol industry’s self-regulation of its marketing is ineffective and insufficient because the voluntary standards are permissive and vague, not consistently followed and without penalties for violations.

• Police sobriety checkpoints should be conducted more frequently and in conjunction with widespread publicity about the programs.

• States should enact laws requiring ignition interlocks — breath alcohol analyzers connected to the ignition system of a vehicle — for all DUI offenders. There should be a minimum monitoring period of two years for interlock devices for a first offense, and four years for a second offense.

• Every state should create special courts aimed at changing the behavior of drunken drivers through comprehensive monitoring and substance abuse treatment.

• Cities should work to increase the availability and affordability of safe transportation alternatives for drinkers who might otherwise drive. Examples include smartphone-enabled ride sharing and improved public transportation options, especially at nights, on weekends and in rural areas.

By the Associated Press