Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

May 22, 2013

OUR VIEW:

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — One-third of traffic deaths in the United States are alcohol-related, and the National Transportation Safety Board hopes to reduce that number with last week’s recommendation that states reduce their threshold for drunk driving to 0.05 blood alcohol content.

Before that happens, we’d like to see better enforcement of existing laws on the books.

The NTSB reports that about 10,000 people in the U.S. are killed annually in alcohol-related accidents, and statistics from Europe — when many countries have adopted the 0.05 standard — show that the risk of a crash at a 0.05 reading is half what it is at 0.08.

We don’t argue that point. It stands to reason that the less you’ve had to drink the less likely you’ll be impaired to the point that you’re involved in an accident. However, just like criminals who want to get their hands on a gun, a person who wants to drink and drive will find a way, and no “legal limit” will deter him.

Officials at the NTSB practically implied that last week. The board’s chairman, Deborah Hersman expressed frustration “that with the education and advocacy, with laws and enforcement and with the many processes set up to deal with the problem of drinking and driving, that we are still seeing so many lives lost.”

While there are intoxicated drivers who elude detection after they are pulled over by police, there are far too many who are caught, only to be given light punishment in court. When the courts opt for 30 hours of community service over some real jail time, there’s not much deterrence to steer clear of drinking and driving.

In addition, it seems to us that many drivers have received the message not to drink and drive, at least around here. A review of DWI arrests published in the US&J and its sister Niagara County publications since April 1 shows 44 DWI arrests with a published BAC. Of those, 24 — more than half — are 0.16 percent or higher. Only five had a BAC of 0.10 or lower. There were also two dozen drivers who refused a breathalyzer test. We can only imagine that they would have registered 0.16 or higher had they taken the breath test.

We would like nothing better than to see DWI-related deaths come to an end. But what the NTSB is recommending seems to be just another attempt at feel-good legislation that will do nothing to achieve its goal. Tighten up on what’s already provided by law.

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