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Drunk Driving No. 1 Problem Madd Poll Shows Wide Support For Lowering Legal Alcohol Levels

Sat., Dec. 6, 1997

Nearly seven in 10 Americans favor lowering the legal blood alcohol content level below the limits that prevail in most states, according to a holiday season survey released Friday by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In addition, 53 percent of respondents ranked drunken drivers as the nation’s No. 1 highway safety problem, the poll said. People who drive too fast ranked second at 19 percent.

The survey, sponsored by the All-state Insurance Co., is part of a push for legislation introduced in Congress that would require states to lower their legal blood alcohol content levels to 0.08 percent or risk losing some of their federal highway aid. The measure has not advanced out of House and Senate committees.

“We are calling on our government here in the nation’s capital and in every state capital to take swift and decisive action to combat this major public health and safety problem,” Katherine Prescott, MADD national president, said at a news conference.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia enforce 0.1 percent blood alcohol levels, while 15 states already have the lower 0.08 percent limit. According to the survey, 69 percent of respondents would like to see the level lowered to 0.08 percent.

The poll also found that 31 percent of people admit they have driven after drinking too much, and 79 percent believe the roads are more dangerous during the holidays because of drunken drivers.

The telephone survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted by the Market Facts research firm from Nov. 3-5. The margin of error is approximately plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Meanwhile, the government said Thursday that tougher laws against driving under the influence helped lower the death rate among children under age 15 who were killed by drunk drivers since 1985. The rate fell sharpest for children killed while bicycling, though it also fell for children walking and riding in cars.

Alcohol-related car crashes caused 0.70 deaths per 100,000 children last year, down 26 percent from a rate of 0.95 deaths for every 100,000 children in 1985, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

All told, drunken drivers killed 8,344 children over the 12-year period, the figures showed.

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