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Number 211                                                                                               January 2000

U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590




In March of 1998, President Clinton called for the promotion of a national legal limit, under which it would be illegal per se to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, across the country, including federal property.

The President directed the Secretary of Transportation to develop a plan to promote the adoption of a .08 BAC legal limit. In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed the Presidential Initiative for Making .08 BAC the National Legal Limit. This plan has four key elements:

1. Enact strong .08 BAC legislation
2. Develop effective public education programs
3. Embrace active, high visibility law enforcement
4. Build public-private partnerships

A progress report is ready that updates activities since the President gave the directive. The report documents activity in support of .08 BAC in five areas: executive leadership, legislation, research and evaluation, federal agencies, and private sector partners. Here are a few highlights from the progress report.

Executive Leadership

In August 1998, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater announced that the percentage of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the United States dropped to an historic low in 1997. He stressed that we must continue to do more to lower the number of alcohol-related fatalities, including working toward a national standard of .08 for drunken driving.

In December 1998, President Clinton stressed the importance of lowering the national impaired driving standard to .08 percent blood alcohol content in his weekly radio address to the nation. The President commended the 16 states and the District of Columbia for adopting the stricter standard and pledged to make .08 the rule on federal property.

Legislative Activity

On June 9, 1998, President Clinton signed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). TEA-21 provided $500 million in incentive grants over six years to states that have enacted and are enforcing a .08 BAC per se law.

In the 1999 state legislative sessions, 23 states introduced .08 legislation. Texas and the District of Columbia were successful in passing .08 legislation. In 1999, 17 states and the District of Columbia received incentive grants totaling $57.4 million for legally lowering and actively enforcing the .08 BAC threshold for impaired driving.

Research and Evaluation

Since 1991, there have been seven published studies regarding the effectiveness of .08 BAC laws in reducing alcohol-related fatal crashes. These studies have involved a number of research and funding organizations and they have examined the experiences of 14 of the states which have enacted .08 BAC laws. These studies have provided consistent and persuasive evidence that these laws, particularly in combination with administrative license revocation (ALR) laws, are associated with reductions in alcohol-related fatal crashes and fatalities. Multi-state studies have reported reductions ranging from 6 percent to 16 percent.

Federal Agency Activity

Many federal agencies have contributed to making .08 BAC a national standard. Here is a sample of their activities:

  • Department of Defense Legislative Proposal for Fiscal Year 2000 contained a provision to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to reduce, from 0.10 grams to 0.08 grams, the blood and breath alcohol levels for the offense of drunken operation of a vehicle, aircraft, or vessel.
  • The National Park Service of the Department of Interior drafted a rulemaking document to change the legal limit in America's national parks to .08 BAC.
  • The Indian Health Service recently conducted an updated inventory of Tribal Traffic Safety Laws that showed 29 Tribal Nations have adopted either a separate Tribal law at .08, or their state's .08 law.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a rulemaking to amend federal regulations to establish .08 BAC as the legal limit for operating a recreational boat. Currently, 20 states have a .08 BAC standard for recreational boating.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is developing an educational video that shows impairment at .08 BAC. NHTSA also completed three new research studies examining the effects of .08 per se laws.

Partners have been Active

Many private sector organizations have also joined the effort to make .08 BAC the national standard. Below is a sample of their activities:

  • Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have testified before state legislatures in support of .08, met with key members of legislatures, and participated in press events supporting .08.

  • The Vehicle Injury Prevention team of the American College of Emergency Physicians developed a slide presentation for its 200 members in 41 states to conduct outreach to public and private community members on impaired driving and .08 BAC.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published articles supporting .08 laws in their AAP NEWS. This member publication reaches 55,000 AAP members

  • The International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs' Association signed on to support NHTSA's new impaired driving campaign and enforcement mobilization periods. Motorists can expect to see law enforcement officers out in full force during the July 4th holiday weekend and during the December holiday periods to raise public awareness of DUI. They will be actively enforcing existing DUI laws, including .08 BAC.

  • The National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives, in conjunction with NHTSA, is participating in the development of a new national impaired driving campaign. This campaign will contain an .08 BAC educational component and will be implemented through the State Highway Safety Offices.

How To Order

NHTSA will widely distribute this progress report to members of Congress and our partners at the national, state, and locals levels. For a copy of Presidential Initiative for Making .08 BAC the National Legal Limit: A Progress Report (13 pages) write to the Media and Marketing Division, NHTSA, NTS-21, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590, or send fax to (202) 493-2062.

U.S. Department
of Transportation
National Highway
Traffic Safety

400 Seventh Street, S.W. NTS-31
Washington, DC 20590

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