Drunk Driving Deaths and the BAC Dilemma

In 2004, there were over 16,000 deaths directly related to drunk driving in the United States. Drunk driving deaths, while down considerably since 1981 (the year the government started keeping track), have not shown significant improvement for several years. Wendy Hamilton, former President of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) blames the increase on complacency and has said, “We’ve got about 300 people getting killed every single week in this country in completely preventable crashes.”

Many states have mandated sentences where high levels of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) exists, allowing judges to circumvent lawyer tactics designed to get their clients lighter sentences. With drunk driving deaths in the tens of thousands every year, these mandates are a good beginning in the fight to rid our highways and streets of inebriated drivers.

Among other things, MADD believes drunk driving deaths can be reduced by sobriety check-points and tougher penalties against drivers refusing BAC tests when stopped. Another area where laws need toughening is against those drivers caught driving after their licenses are suspended and for anyone with a BAC of .15 or over.

Contrary to the belief that alcohol-related fatalities are always caused by hard-core drinkers and alcoholics, new studies are showing these fatalities often involve lower BAC levels. It is evident that even low levels of alcohol impair the reasoning abilities of the average drinker, possibly those that are unable to judge their drunkenness because of inexperience with the effects of alcohol.

These individuals should either not drive at all if they consume any alcohol whatsoever, or more realistically, they need a way to find out their BAC before driving a vehicle . It’s easy to see when a person is falling over drunk and, obviously, he or she should not drive. The difficulty lies in deciding whether to drive or not after only a few drinks. Are they over the legal limit or not? How can you tell? To the average person/bartender/cop, a .05 BAC looks no different from a .08 BAC.

Digital alcohol breath testers are one way to address that dilemma. These “breathalyzers” come in small and large sizes. The small personal sized devices can fit inside a purse or pocket while bars and other facilities serving alcohol beverages can install the larger coin-operated systems.

For a nominal price, customers at restaurants and bars can test themselves for BAC before leaving the establishment. Unfortunately, there will always be those who think they can handle a BAC of .08 or more, and will decide they can handle the highways.

But, we believe, that if the drinking public is armed with the right information, most people will make the right choice and, inevitably, reduce our insanely high drunk driving deaths.