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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 3, 1998

March 3, 1998


SUBJECT: Standards to Prevent Drinking and Driving

We have made progress in improving highway safety through a variety of innovative and aggressive initiatives, including our "Buckle Up America" campaign to increase safety belt usage and improve child passenger safety, and the formation of a ground-breaking public-private partnership on airbags. We have also taken important steps to reduce the deaths and injuries brought about by alcohol use and driving. In November 1995, I signed into law legislation to help ensure that States adopt "Zero Alcohol Tolerance" laws by October 1998 for young drivers. To date, 46 States and the District of Columbia have enacted such laws.

However, drunk driving remains a serious highway safety problem. Over 40 percent of all motor vehicle deaths in 1996 -- 17,126 -- were alcohol-related, and nearly 3,000 of these fatalities were young people under the age of 21. Moreover, alcohol-related automobile accidents cost our society $45 billion every year, not including the pain and suffering endured by the victims.

We must do more to prevent the many tragic and unnecessary alcohol-related deaths and injuries that occur on our Nation's roads. That is why my Administration has called on the Congress to pass legislation helping to ensure that a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 becomes the national legal limit. Research shows that, at a BAC level of .08, drivers are impaired with regard to critical driving tasks such as braking, steering, lane changing, and exercising good judgment. The risk of being involved in a crash increases substantially when drivers have a BAC level of .08 or above. In fact, the relative risk of a driver being killed in a single-vehicle crash at .08 BAC has been estimated to be at least 11 times higher than it is for drivers who have no alcohol in their system. Yet 33 States and the District of Columbia continue to use .10 BAC as the legal limit. It is estimated that if all States were to lower their limits to .08 BAC, there would be 600 fewer alcohol-related traffic deaths every year.

I hope the Congress will enact legislation as soon as possible to help to ensure State passage of .08 BAC laws. Even before the Congress acts, however, we can take action to promote .08 BAC as the appropriate standard across the country, including on Federal property.

I therefore direct you, working with appropriate Federal agencies, the Congress, the States, safety groups, and other concerned Americans, to report back to me within 45 days with a plan to promote the adoption of a .08 BAC legal limit. Among other things, the plan should consider:

     (1)  setting a .08 BAC standard on Federal property, including in
          national parks and on Department of Defense installations, 
          and ensuring strong enforcement and publicity of this 

     (2)  encouraging tribal governments to adopt, enforce, and 
          publicize a .08 BAC standard on highways in Indian Country 
          that are subject to their jurisdiction; and

     (3)  developing an educational campaign to help the public
          understand the risks associated with combining alcohol
          consumption and driving.


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