Technological Shortcuts to Social Change

By Amitai Etzioni; Richard Remp | Go to book overview

3
ALCOHOL AND TRAFFIC SAFETY: SCREENING OUT THE DRUNKEN DRIVER

LILY HOFFMAN


INTRODUCTION

In both human and economic terms traffic accidents are a major social problem. In 1969. there were 56,400 deaths, two million disabling injuries, and costs (medical expenses, insurance, property damage, wage loss) of almost 12 billion dollars.1 Alcohol is conceded to be one of the major if not the most important causal factors in fatal and severe traffic accidents.2 Several well-controlled studies have shown that 44-60 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes have blood alcohol levels (BALs) greater than .10 percent (a level that is generally agreed will cause significant impairment), and there is similar though less spectacular implication of alcohol in other vehicular accidents. In general, with increasing levels of blood alcohol, there is increasing likelihood of a driver becoming involved in an accident, that he will be responsible for the accident, and that the accident will be severe or fatal.

This correlation between alcohol and auto fatalities is not new knowledge. For example, at least one of the major controlled studies still cited dates back to the 1930s.3 But even though many countries have had laws

____________________
1
National Safety Council, Accident Facts: 1970 ( Chicago). February, 1970.
2
Among many references, see publications of the National Safety Council, U.S. Department of Transportation reports, and in the popular press, Howard A. Rusk. M.D., "Death on the Highway," New York Times, July 5, 1970.
3
R. L. Holcomb, "Alcohol in Relation to Traffic Accidents," Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 111 ( September 17, 1938), pp. 1076-1085. (This journal will be cited as JAMA.)

-79-

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