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Invited Commentary
July 2018

Effective Alcohol Policies—Saving Lives on US Roadways

Author Affiliations
  • 1Zoox Inc, Foster City, California
JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(7):901-902. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.1399

Every day, almost 100 people die on US roadways going to work, school, health care appointments, and social and athletic events. In 2016, there were 37 461 lives lost on US roadways, with alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounting for 10 497 (28.0%) of those lost lives.1 These 2016 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities represent a 1.7% increase from 2015.

To decrease roadway deaths and enhance overall highway safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses an intervention model that incorporates the following 3 elements: strong laws, high-visibility enforcement, and education. This model has been effectively applied to alcohol-impaired driving, with significant outcomes through the 1980s and 1990s. For example, the NHTSA identified 5 critical drinking and driving laws, and 245 of the possible total 255 laws had been enacted by the 50 states and the District of Columbia by 2005. During that same period, both the number of alcohol-impaired driving deaths and the proportion of overall traffic deaths due to alcohol impairment dropped by more than one-third.2

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1 Comment for this article
Policy save lives
Ernest M Kraus, B.S. | retired pharmacist
The same will be found when the numbers are available and crunched on marijuana. Both alcohol and marijuana are tax cash cows. No one wants to touch them except to legalize, collect the taxes and then have consensus groups to find a policy to prevent accidents. Einstein was right.
Ernest M. Kraus