THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
President Clinton: Supporting Safe and Sober Streets
March 3, 1998
Today, President Clinton: (1) urged the Congress to pass legislation to seta nationwide limit for impaired driving at .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) for adult drivers; and (2) directed Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater to develop a plan in 45 days to set the adoption of .08 BAC as the standard on federal property, including military bases and in national parks.
Setting Limits and Saving Lives
Drunk Driving Kills. Every 30 minutes, someone dies in the United States 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. Setting a Nationwide .08 BAC Standard Can Save Lives. Most states currently have .10 BAC as the standard. A recent study conducted by Boston University of five states (California, Maine, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont) that lowered their limit to .08 BAC found drunk driver fatalities were reduced by an average of 16%. The study predicts that if all states lower their BAC limits to .08, it will result in 600 fewer alcohol-related deaths each year. Drivers are Impaired at .08 BAC. Reaching .08 BAC is not just a couple of drinks after work. An average male weighing 170 pounds must have more than four drinks in an hour on an empty stomach to reach .08 BAC. The average 137-pound female would need to have three drinks in the same period. At .08 BAC, drivers have difficulty with critical driving tasks, such as braking, steering, lane changing, and exercising judgment. Research indicates that the relative risk of being killed in a single vehicle crash at .08 BAC is at least 11 times higher than it is for drivers with no alcohol in their system.
Calling for Action to Make .08 BAC the Nationwide Standard
Making .08 the Legal BAC Limit in All 50 States. The President today endorsed the "Safe and Sober Streets Act" proposed by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), 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 construction funds. The Lautenberg/Lowey legislation would withhold 5 percent of highway construction funds from those states that do not pass a .08 BAC law within three years, and 10 percent subsequently. 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. The President today signed a directive to 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. Currently, military bases have a standard of .10 BAC and federal lands are governed by the law of their respective states. 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.
A Record of Leadership in the Fight Against Youth Drinking and Driving
"Zero Tolerance" Laws for Underage Drinking. Calling for action to reduce the deaths and injuries brought about by alcohol use and driving by teens, the President signed a law in November, 1995, which required 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.