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Stronger alcohol laws could reduce drunk driving deaths

Accidents involving drunk drivers around the country claim 29 lives every day, and 110 million Americans drive while intoxicated each year, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A nationwide .08 percent blood alcohol limit and zero tolerance programs aimed at younger drivers have made roads in Maryland and across the country safer, but they have not been enough to prevent drunk driving deaths from rising alarmingly in recent years.

Efforts to reduce intoxicated driving have generally involved stricter DUI laws and more rigorous policing, but a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on May 29 suggests that higher alcohol taxes and more restrictive licensing laws could actually be far more effective ways of tackling the problem. Researchers discovered that states where alcohol was more expensive and difficult to purchase had far fewer drunk driving deaths, and they concluded that increasing the strength of alcohol laws by 10 percent results in a corresponding 10 percent drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

Reducing the national blood alcohol limit still further would also reduce road deaths. Studies have revealed that drivers may be dangerously impaired with blood alcohol levels far lower than .08 percent, and many countries have reduced their limits to .05 percent or even lower as a result. Groups that have advocated for a .05 percent blood alcohol limit to be established in the United States include the National Transportation Safety Board, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys would likely support legislation that focuses on deterring reckless behavior rather than punishing those who make mistakes. When individuals facing DUI charges have not been involved in accidents and caused no property damage, attorneys may urge prosecutors to be lenient and take mitigating factors like stable employment, a supportive family and genuine remorse into consideration.

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