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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 3, 1998

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 

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.