Heavy drinkers cause many car crashes

Hard-Core Drinkers Cause Many Alcohol-Related Auto Fatalities

A government study revealed that four out of every 10 alcohol-related automobile fatalities in the U.S. involved drivers who were previously arrested for drunken driving or had a blood-alcohol reading well over the legal limit, the Associated Press reported June 28.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report "hard-core drinking drivers" were responsible for 6,370 of the 15,794 highway deaths in 1998. Hard-core drinking drivers were defined as those with prior drunken-driving arrests or convictions, or those with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher.

"From 1983 through 1998, at least 137,338 people died in crashes involving hard-core drinking drivers," the study said.

Overall, automobile deaths involving alcohol declined steadily since 1984 ,when the NTSB released its first safety study dedicated to repeat-offending drunken drivers.

While states have implemented measures to address the problem of hard-core drinking drivers, the report recommended the following actions: frequent and well-publicized sobriety checkpoints; sanctions that include vehicle impoundment for repeat offenders; legislation that requires repeat offenders to maintain a zero blood-alcohol content while driving; higher penalties for having a blood-alcohol content above .15 percent; restrictions on plea bargaining in drunk-driving cases; and alternatives to jail time, such as house arrest or "intensive probation."

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