At the end of December, Utah will lower the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for driving from 0.08 to 0.05 percent, the lowest in the nation. While a survey shows a majority of Americans back this change, simply lowering the limit and assuming the problem will go away is not the end of the story.
A new report offers a recommended package of policies to reduce crashes and associated deaths. These include lowering the permitted BAC, increasing taxes on alcohol, increased use of sobriety checkpoints, use of ignition locks, and reduced advertising and outlets for the purchase of alcohol. But alcohol-industry representatives and others, although recognizing the problem, express doubt about the effectiveness of the recommendations.
A pair of international studies from Australia and the European Union examined roadway safety. A number of factors help explain why Australia’s traffic fatality rate is less than half of the U.S. rate. And strict blood alcohol content limits can reduce fatalities but must be coupled with supportive policies that reduce alcohol consumption overall.
Alcohol and gasoline prices are having unexpected impacts on traffic fatalities, as well as causing damage to economies. A study from an economics professor at Southern University and A&M College in Louisiana explored the relationship between per capita alcohol consumption and traffic fatalities, as well as the relationship between increased gasoline prices and traffic fatalities among young drivers (age 15–24).