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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release May 13, 1998
                          VICE PRESIDENT GORE 
                           CALLS ON CONGRESS 
                            IN HIGHWAY BILL

600 Fewer Americans Would Die Each Year Due to Drunk Drivers

Washington, DC--Vice President Gore called on Congress today to enact a national uniform .08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) level in the final version of the pending federal highway bill, giving states three years to enact laws to make .08 BAC the legal limit or risk losing federal highway funds.

The Vice President was joined at a White House ceremony by Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater; Senators John Chafee (R-RI), Mike DeWine (R-OH), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Representatives Charles Canaday (R-FL) and Nita Lowey (D-NY); and Dr. Eric Munoz, a trauma surgeon and physician administrator of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-University Hospital.

Every 30 minutes of every day, someone dies because of a drunk driver -- and those are lives we simply can't afford to lose, Vice President Gore said. That's why President Clinton and I are calling on Congress to accept the Senate amendment and set a national limit of .08 for all drivers.

Our message to Congress is this: Don't let the fate of .08 get tied up in legislative wrangling, the Vice President added. Join with these leaders from both parties to say to act now to stop drunk driving, and save American lives.

The Vice President, Secretary Slater and the bipartisan members of Congress urged the conferees to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the ISTEA bills and pass the .08 BAC amendment, which would set .08 as a national uniform standard.

The push for this legislation comes after studies showing that drivers with a .08 BAC are seriously impaired when it comes to such critical tasks as braking, steering, changing lanes, and exercising quick judgment. This research also shows that drivers' risk of being killed in a single vehicle car crash at .08 is at least 11 times higher than it is for drivers with no alcohol in their system.

On March 3, President Clinton endorsed the Safe and Sober Streets Act proposed by Senator Lautenberg and Rep. Nita Lowey, which sets the national BAC limit of .08 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 5 percent of highway construction funds.

On March 4, the Senate passed Senator Lautenberg's .08 amendment to ISTEA by a vote of 62-32. When the House took up ISTEA a month later, the Rules Committee blocked consideration of the .08 amendment which was sponsored by Congresswoman Nita Lowey and 120 cosponsors.

The conferees are now meeting on ISTEA and they hope to wrap up conference to bring the bill to the House floor by the end of next week.