THE WHITE HOUSE AT WORK
Tuesday, March 3, 1998
A TOUGH LAW THAT SAVES LIVES
Lowering the legal limit to .08 will not prevent adults from enjoying alcoholic beverages -- provided they do so responsibly. In fact, lowering the legal limit will remind responsible Americans to take even greater care when they use alcohol. But to people who would disregard the lethal threat they pose when they drink and drive, lowering the legal limit sends a strong message: we will not tolerate irresponsible acts that endanger our children and nation.
- President Bill Clinton
March 3, 1998
Today, President Clinton calls for legislation setting a nationwide limit for impaired driving at .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) and signs an Executive Memorandum directing Transportation Secretary Slater to develop a plan in 45 days to promote the adoption of .08 BAC on all federal property.
Every 30 minutes, someone dies because of a drunk driver. In 1996, of the 41,907 motor vehicle deaths, 41% -- or 17,126 -- were alcohol-related. Nearly 3,000 of these fatalities were young people under age 21. Over 80% of drivers involved in fatal crashes with positive BACs had levels exceeding .08 BAC. Moreover, alcohol-related crashes cost society $45 billion every year, not counting the pain and suffering endured by its victims.
The .08 BAC Standard Saves Lives. A recent study of five states that lowered their limit to .08 BAC found drunk driver fatalities were reduced by an average of 16%. When all states lower their BAC limits to .08 BAC, alcohol-related deaths are expected to decrease by 600 each year.
Making .08 BAC The Nationwide Standard. President Clinton endorsed the "Safe and Sober Streets Act," which sets a national BAC limit of .08 percent for drivers age 21 and older. The bill would give states three years to enact laws to make .08 BAC the legal limit, or risk losing highway funds. Fifteen states have already adopted .08 BAC laws: Utah, Oregon, Maine, California, Vermont, Kansas, North Carolina, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia, Hawaii, Alabama, Idaho and Illinois.
Taking Executive Action On .08 BAC. President Clinton is directing Transportation Secretary Slater to work with Federal agencies, States, safety groups, and others to develop a plan to set a .08 BAC standard on federal property, such as national parks and military bases. The directive also instructs the Secretary to include in his plan other steps to promote the adoption of .08 BAC as the nationwide standard, including an education campaign to help the public understand the risks associated with drinking and driving.
Leading The Fight Against Youth Drinking And Driving. The President is committed to taking action to reduce the deaths and injuries brought about by alcohol use and driving by teens. The .08 BAC standard builds on the law President Clinton signed requiring all states to have "Zero Alcohol Tolerance" laws for youth by Oct. 1, 1998, or risk losing highway funds. To date, 46 states and the District of Columbia have enacted zero tolerance laws, which prohibit youths under age 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.