Every death on our roads is a tragic loss causing overwhelming grief for the victims’ families. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a nonprofit organization in North America spear headed by a mother who lost her child to a drunk driver. MADD seeks to stop drunk driving, support those affected, prevent underage drinking, and strive for stricter impaired driving policy, whether that impairment is caused by alcohol or any other drug. We all know that these horrible tragedies can happen to anyone and can be prevented, so what more can Hawaii and other states do to reduce the carnage that results in so much pain and cost to society? Reducing the illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for driving from .08% to .05% could be one answer.
Hundreds of studies have shown a relationship between alcohol concentration and driver performance with scientific literature clearly documenting the negative impact that drugs and alcohol have on an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. There is great variation in the way alcohol affects different individuals, however, the following generalizations can be made. 1) Impairment begins with the first drink, at a BAC as low as .02; 2) For most people, measurable impairment is evident at a blood alcohol level of .05; and 3) For virtually all people, impairment of important driving skills is certain at a blood alcohol level of .08.
Driving skills showing the most decline at even low alcohol concentrations are: complex tracking tasks; complex reaction time; information processing; psychomotor performance; visual functions; and divided attention tasks where subjects must attend to multiple stimuli at the same time. In 1985, after extensive reviews of medical literature, the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling for all states to adopt a legal per se blood alcohol level of .05%. This was just one year after MADD was chartered in Hawaii! Now more than 25 years later .05 is a level which most industrialized countries have adopted.
How many alcoholic drinks can you consume and remain under a .05 BAC? The general answer is 2 standard drinks within the first hour of drinking for women weighing approximately 120 lbs. and 3 standard drinks within the first hour for men weighing 160 lbs. However, don’t rely on this. If you are going to drive, just don’t drink. Unfortunately, Hawaii remains a state with a very high percentage of alcohol-related fatalities. This year so far 68% of road fatalities on Maui were alcohol and drug related.
MADD Hawaii supports the concept of a lower alcohol level for driving in our state as one of the best ways of preventing crashes and fatalities and hopes you do too. A bill is being presented for the State Legislature to consider this in 2020. With your support this could be the year we save lives!
To find out more about MADD Hawaii, join their campaigns, volunteer, advocate or donate go to madd.org/hawaii. YOU can be a part of the solution.
Image Credit: Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay