Progress on alcohol-impaired driving has stalled since the mid-1990s. Despite earlier declines in alcohol-related highway deaths, more than a quarter of all drivers who die in crashes in the U.S. have blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or higher.
The key to reducing alcohol-impaired driving is deterrence. People are less likely to drink and drive if they believe they'll get caught. Sustained and well-publicized enforcement is the best way to let potential violators know they won't get away with it.Effective measures against impaired driving include:
- administrative license suspension. This procedure, allowed in most states, lets police immediately take away the license of someone who either fails an alcohol test or refuses to be tested.
- sobriety checkpoints. Checkpoints, which have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, don't always result in a lot of arrests, but they are a good deterrent if they are visible and publicized. Not all states have them.
- minimum drinking age of 21. Young drivers have a much higher crash risk after drinking alcohol than adults. Setting 21 as the minimum legal age for purchasing alcohol has helped reduce alcohol-impaired driving among teenagers. However, better enforcement of these laws is needed in many places.
- alcohol interlocks. Many states require these devices for people with impaired driving convictions. People are less likely to reoffend when they're required to have an interlock, and laws requiring interlocks for all impaired-driving offenders reduce alcohol-involved crashes.
Marijuana use among drivers is a growing concern as more states legalize recreational use. Experimental studies have found that recent marijuana use can worsen driving performance. Crash rates have risen in states that have legalized retail sales for recreational use.
Recent action by Congress could finally put an end to one of the most deadly and persistent highway safety problems. Let's make sure we get it right.
April 20, 2023
A third of drivers who drink alcohol and use marijuana together say they sometimes get behind the wheel afterward.
September 20, 2022