Impairment Begins With the First Drink

Impairment Begins With the First Drink

December 5, 2017 Road Safety

In the 1980s, the United States saw a significant reduction in alcohol-involved crashes. This was due to such strategies as lowering the legal driving limit to 0.08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), increasing the minimum legal drinking age to 21 and instituting educational campaigns about the dangers of drinking and driving.

However, for 20 years, drivers with alcohol concentrations at or above 0.08 have remained involved in one-third of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. That’s about 10,000 lives lost every year.

A DUI check point

To reduce this toll, the National Safety Council supports:

  • A national campaign educating Americans on impairment beginning with the first drink
  • Efforts by states to lower the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration in drivers

The legal alcohol concentration limit in all states is 0.08. Research shows that for the majority of drivers, driving performance has deteriorated significantly at this level.

However, the current U.S. culture regarding driving and alcohol is not supportive of lowering driving limits for all adult drivers. And despite drivers’ views of drinking and driving as a very serious threat, more than one in eight drivers admit to driving in the past year when they thought they were close to or over the legal limit.

NSC knows more must be done to educate our fellow citizens about alcohol impairment, and we believe change can happen as people know more. A strategy grounded in human behavior theory is needed to change those beliefs and ultimately influence widespread change.

Read the NSC Low Alcohol Concentration National Culture Change policy statement. It includes data, scientific evidence of impairment at low levels, and background

About the author

Jeffrey Hofstetter: