Advocates Congratulates the Delaware Legislature on Becoming 50th State to Pass .08% BAC Law

Thursday, July 1, 2004 (202) 408-1711 x15



Uniform adoption of state primary seat belt laws and better safety features in vehicles next battleground for highway safety.

Washington, D.C. Advocates congratulates the Delaware legislature and Governor Ruth Ann Minner for passage of a .08% BAC per se law. The legislature worked late into the night to pass this legislation and it is now headed to Governor Minner, who made this legislation one of her top priorities this year. When the Governor signs this key safety law, Delaware will close the loop, with all 50 states and the District of Columbia now having .08% BAC per se laws.

The probability of having a crash rises dramatically when a driver reaches and exceeds 0.08% BAC. Through the persistent efforts of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, MADD, Congressional leaders and other safety organizations, in 2000, Congress passed and President Clinton signed a law requiring that states enact a .08% BAC per se law by October 1, 2003 or lose a percent of highway funding. Prior to this law, only 19 states and the District of Columbia had passed 0.08% BAC per se laws. In the four years since, 30 states have enacted .08%, making this law now uniform throughout the nation.

It is fitting that as the American public takes to the roads this Fourth of July, the final state has passed a life-saving drunk driving law bringing Delaware into compliance with the federal requirement. Every year, the Fourth of July is likely to have the highest number of deaths than any other day according to a recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The latest preliminary traffic fatality figures for 2003 show that there were 43,220 deaths, the highest number since 1990 and the fourth year in a row that highway deaths have climbed. This climbing death toll, combined with the success story represented by federal and state actions on .08, provides a blueprint for additional government leadership on other highway and auto safety measures. There is an unfinished safety agenda that is killing us.

Congress needs to pass a law similar to the national .08% BAC law that encourages all states to have a primary enforcement seat belt law. Currently, 29 states do not have such laws, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an additional 9,200 deaths and 143,000 serious injuries could be prevented if all passengers were to use their seat belts. States with a primary enforcement seat belt law have higher usage rates. Lack of seat belt use costs society an additional $26 billion in medical care, lost productivity and other injury related costs annually.

Congress also needs to pass legislation currently being debated in a conference between House and Senate Members to make vehicles safer and provide every American family with life-saving safety features to protect them in crashes involving drunk drivers, aggressive drivers, and deadly vehicle rollover.

Clearly, Congress has an obligation to work on uniform primary enforcement seat belt laws and to improve motor vehicle safety standards to prevent needless tragedies and reduce the economic burden on taxpayers that result from preventable deaths and injuries.

Celebrating America's birthday this Fourth of July should not be a weekend of tragedy for American families, especially since we know what to do to prevent unnecessary traffic deaths and injuries.

I urge every driver on the road this holiday weekend to buckle-up, obey all traffic laws particularly speed limits, and don't drink and drive.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer. Founded in 1989, Advocates encourages the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that save lives and reduce injuries. Please visit Advocates' web site at

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