Government study questions lowering blood-alcohol limit

July 12, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The federal highway safety agency has overstated the effectiveness of state laws that lower the level of alcohol in the bloodstream needed to classify an individual as legally drunk, a government review has found. The review concluded that lowering the blood-alcohol limit alone did not demonstrably reduce the number or severity of alcohol-related car crashes.

The review, by the General Accounting Office, challenged the findings of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in several published studies commissioned by the safety agency, which supports tighter restrictions on drinking and driving.

In its analysis of the data from the studies, the accounting office found little statistical evidence to confirm that lowering the permissible blood-alcohol concentration to 0.08, from 0.10, significantly reduces the number of automobile crashes.

The accounting office -- the congressional investigative agency -- concluded that the best countermeasure against drunken driving is a combination of vigorous enforcement of blood-alcohol-level laws, strong laws requiring that the licenses of violators be revoked and sustained public education.

The accounting office's finding undermines efforts by the Clinton administration to establish a national limit of 0.08.

Pub Date: 7/12/99

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