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- EPICURUS - 01-07-1999 12:09 AM

THE STATE; DEATH RATE UNAFFECTED, RESEARCHERS SAY; Officials back DWI law despite study's findings






On-Line edition of the

Wilmington, N.C.
North Carolina's
oldest daily newspaper

Local/State / Wednesday, January6, 1999


Compiled from staff and wire service reports
Wilmington Morning Star

Copyright 1999 Wilmington Star-News, Inc.
WILMINGTON, N.C. -- CHAPEL HILL - A university study takes aim at the effectiveness of reducing the driving-while-impaired standard to a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level, but a state official said Tuesday the lower limit has had a positive effect.
   The study was one of 11 commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those studies were the basis for which President Clinton has called for lower national DWI thresholds.
   "Fewer people are driving drunk. We're ahead of the curve" in battling alcohol-related accidents and deaths, said Joe Parker, director of the Governor's Highway Safety Program.
   From 1992 to 1997, traffic deaths due to alcohol dropped from 534 to 462, Mr. Parker said. In 1993, the state lowered its threshold for a driving-while-intoxicated charge from 0.10 to 0.08 percent blood alcohol.
   Reasons for the declines include the lower blood alcohol level as well as aggressive enforcement, impoundment of cars driven by repeat drunken drivers and the new zero tolerance for commercial drivers, Mr. Parker said.
   Researchers weren't able to isolate North Carolina's 0.08 percent blood alcohol level as a definitive cause for lower traffic accidents and deaths.
   The study showed in North Carolina fatalities were 4 percent fewer than in states with higher permissible alcohol levels for drivers. The study, conducted for the federal agency by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, concluded that North Carolina's decline wasn't statistically significant.
   But the study said there was a similar pattern of reductions in alcohol-related traffic deaths in three dozen other states that kept higher DWI limits.
   "Do I think moving to 0.08 solved the problem or made a huge difference? No," said Rob Foss of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.
   Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, chairman of the Governor's Task Force on Driving While Impaired, said he disagreed with the study's conclusion.
   No matter what happened in other states, North Carolina's statistics speak for themselves, he said. The largest drop in alcohol-related fatalities happened in the year the new law took effect.
   The research comes as the governor's task force considers a proposal to lower the legal blood-alcohol level to 0.07 percent for all drivers and to 0.05 percent for repeat offenders.


- Jerry D Mead - 01-07-1999 12:25 AM

Remember The Curmudgeon has been telling everyone for years...it ain't about .08...it's about "zero tolerance," and the minute they get .08 they start going after .07, or .05, or .04....and when they get those they'll go after zero. They've said it, I've warned you, yet folks keep supporting it even though it doesn't stop the problem...recidivist drunks whose BACs are usually .20 and higher.

And that's why they ignore their own statisticical research...they're not out for truth...they're out to ban alcohol.

JDM

[This message has been edited by Wine Curmudgeon (edited 01-07-99).]