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Drunk driving deaths continue to rise

Roughly one-third of deadly car accidents involve drivers who have had too much to drink. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that the general increase in traffic deaths over the past two years has included an increase in drunk driving fatalities. Last year, there were 10,265 such fatalities. This year, that number is expected to rise. With one of the deadliest nights of the year for drinking and driving accidents right around the corner, it is a good time to reconsider the problem of drunken motorists.

An attitude problem

The moment you start drinking, you become a poor candidate for making the best decisions. The law establishes a specific blood alcohol level at which all drivers are considered drunk. While it is possible to be convicted of drunk driving at a BAC below .08, most people regard that as the magic line that denotes drunkenness. That may encourage some people to drive, despite feeling "buzzed" because they believe they are under that line. 

The truth is, if you are feeling any effects of alcohol, your ability to drive safely has been compromised. Instead of playing chicken with an invisible barrier, the better approach would be to avoid mixing alcohol and driving at all. The safest driver is one who has had no alcohol at all.

Technology or the law

Criminal penalties for drunk driving are more severe than they used to be. We may have reached a point of diminishing returns when it comes to criminal actions. The drivers who can be deterred by the threat of prosecution likely already have been. The price of a DUI conviction, both monetary and otherwise, is high. That is not enough to stop drunk driving.

Technology might offer a better solution. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into devices that measure the driver's BAC and prevent the car from starting if it is too high. The solution is several years away from the market, and it is unclear if consumers will want to pay more for these devices if they are not required to by law. Still, they might be the only way to stop people whose judgment has been impaired by alcohol from getting behind the wheel.

Source: CBS News, "2016 may go down as one of the worst years for drunk-driving deaths," by Kris Van Cleave, 26 December 2016 

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