History of Drunk Driving Advocacy | Multimedia

The year 2022 marks 40 years of tracking drinking-driving trends and major changes in how the United States legally and socially tolerates drinking and driving.

Advocacy against drunk driving has a relatively recent history and, like many other great civic movements, has been galvanized by the culmination of many preventable tragedies. Many of the alcohol laws and social norms that are upheld today were shaped over the past few decades, not too long ago considering people have been drinking and driving since then. invention of the automobile.

On May 3, 1980, Clarence William Busch, while driving drunk despite four previous arrests for the same crime, killed 13-year-old Cari Lightner and fled. Busch was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for drunken manslaughter and was granted parole after just nine months. Lightner was not Busch’s last victim. Several years after his parole, Busch caused his sixth impaired driving accident.

Four months after her daughter’s death, Candace Lightner founded the nonprofit organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving to advocate for tougher drink-driving laws and reduce the number of deaths on the road to zero. road related to alcohol. MADD has inspired new advocacy groups like Students Against Destructive Decisions and Americans United Against Destructive Driving to pursue similar avenues of victim education, lobbying and support.

Even in 1980, drunk driving was inconsistently policed ​​from state to state, and penalties were not severe enough to curb the growing number of drunk driving deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not begin tracking alcohol-related driving incidents until 1982, and that same year the number of drunk driving deaths exceeded 21,000, or nearly half of all road deaths.

Despite poor charitable ratings and the controversy involving founder Lightner, MADD is credited with helping to drive major reforms such as raising the minimum legal drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1984. The impact of this reform was a 16% median drop in car accidents – as well as the reduction of the legal blood alcohol limit from 0.10% to 0.08%. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health, this change reduced the number of impaired road deaths by 10.4% and is estimated to have saved nearly 25,000 lives between 1983 and 2014.

It took until 2004—prompted by a provision of the Department of Transportation Appropriations Bill signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000—for all 50 states to pass a 0.08 per se law that states that driving with a BAC, or BAC, above 0.08% is illegal on its own, with no further proof of impairment required.

Drink-driving campaigns today focus not on driving below the legal blood-alcohol limit, but on driving soberly. Slogans such as “drunk driving is drunk driving” and “drive/drive sober or get arrested” imply that legal drunk driving (less than or equal to 0, 08% but not zero) is unacceptable. NHTSA reported that in 2019, more than 1,700 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a blood alcohol level below the legal limit of 0.08%.

Advances in transportation and changes in technology allow for new ways to prevent driving under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicants. According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are estimated to have reduced the number of alcohol-related deaths by around 6%. In November 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provided that all new vehicles, beginning in 2026, must be equipped with technology that will prevent drivers drunk driving the vehicle.

The Patel Company compiled data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to identify how drunk driving rates have declined since the 1980s, contextualizing the longer history of the fight against drunk driving. Each year presents information on the number of drink-driving-related fatalities and the number of drink-driving-related fatalities.

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