Effects Of Legislative Reform To Reduce Drunken Driving And Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities
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Effects Of Legislative Reform To Reduce Drunken Driving And Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities

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    Public Health Rep
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    From 1980 through 1985, considerable progress was made across the Nation in reducing drunken driving and fatal automobile crashes. More than 400 chapters of local citizen groups concerned with reducing drunken driving were formed. New media coverage, measured in number of stories, increased fiftyfold from 1980 to 1984. More than 500 legislative reforms were passed. All States now have adopted a legal drinking age of 21. Many also adopted criminal and administrative per se laws and instituted penalty increases for drunken driving. By 1985, the total number of fatal crashes declined to 39,168, a decrease of 6,116, or 16 percent, from the 1980 level of 45,284. Single-vehicle fatal crashes occurring at night, those most likely to involve alcohol, declined by 20 percent, with 3,674 fewer crashes in 1985 than in 1980. Among teenage drivers, declines in fatal crashes were steeper: Fatal crashes decreased 26 percent, and single-vehicle night fatal crashes were down 34 percent. After 1984, however, the number of new citizen groups established and the number of stories appearing in the media began to decline. In 1986, after decreasing for several years, the number of fatal crashes rose 5 percent, and single-vehicle night fatal crashes rose 7 percent, up 1,060 from 1985. Among teenage drivers, the increase in single-vehicle night fatal crashes was even higher, up 17 percent. In 1987, single-vehicle night fatal crashes declined slightly but still remained higher than in 1983, 1984, or 1985. Legal changes, while helpful in reducing drunken driving crashes, may not be sufficient to achieve optimal long-term declines. To sustain the progress of the early 1980s, we need to:* Refocus community and media attention on the drunken driving problem. * Increase police enforcement and public support for enforcement of laws against drunken driving.* Heighten educational and enforcement efforts that target risky traffic behaviors more common among drunken drivers-particularly speeding and failure to wear seatbelts.* Develop educational efforts aimed at all segments of the population to increase informal social pressure to discourage drunken driving and riding in vehicles with drivers who are drunk. Traffic accidents remain the leading cause of death among persons ages I to 34; 52 percent of the 46,050 traffic fatalities in 1986 involved ad river or pedestrian who had been drinking. Without renewed attention to the problems posed by drunken driving, we may be unable to sustain the dramatic progress of the early 1980s.
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