When science tackles drunk driving

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It has been said that nothing good happens after 2 a.m. That was certainly true for a man who was driving recently at 3:49 a.m. Of course, nothing good ever happens when you’re driving drunk and turn onto railroad tracks. And it definitely wasn’t good for his car which was struck by a freight train. Fortunately, the man was able to get out of his car before it was hit.

In Texas, as well as the rest of the country, it is illegal to drive if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher. For most of us, that means that a woman can reach the .08 threshold after three glasses of Chardonnay. For men up to around 160 pounds, it would take roughly four drinks, and it could be closer to five drinks for those men near 180 pounds.

When science meets drunk driving

This current BAC threshold could change if the new recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report are adopted. Commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the report calls for lowering BAC thresholds from .08 to .05. What would this mean for drivers? With lower limits, most women would reach .05 after just two drinks. Men could reach the lower threshold after just two or three drinks.

Other report recommendations

Pointing out that drunk driving is the deadliest and costliest danger on U.S. roads, the 489-page report made a number of other suggestions that could make a difference on our roads such as:

  • Reducing the number of hours and days alcohol can be sold
  • Increasing alcohol taxes, noting that doubling taxes could lead to an 11 percent reduction in deaths
  • Tightening enforcement of sales to people under 21
  • Discouraging binge drinking by cracking down on sales to intoxicated people
  • Putting stricter limits on alcohol advertising
  • Promoting anti-alcohol campaigns similar to the anti-smoking ones

U.S. prevention efforts behind other countries

According to the report, more than 100 countries around the world have Utah’s new .05 percent threshold. Ten years after Europe lowered their threshold to .05, the number of traffic deaths related to drunk driving was reduced by more than half.

Self-driving cars aren't the answer right now

"We can’t wait for the advent of self-driving cars to replace all the human drivers," the chairman of the panel that authored the report said. "We have 10,000 people a year dying and we ought to do something about it."

Whether the threshold in Austin is at .08 or .05, if you were hit by a drunk driver, an experienced attorney can help to pursue compensation for injuries and damages, while holding the other driver accountable.

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