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A big concern during every holiday season is driving. Every year, some 10,000 people in this country alone are killed in crashes involving a drunk driver. Now researchers say there are steps communities can take to decrease the number of drivers who are drunk. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.
PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: When police strictly enforce traffic laws, drunk driving decreases. Jim Fell is a public health researcher at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. He wanted to know exactly which laws worked the best. He looked at 30 different communities and tallied up how often police pulled suspicious drivers to the side of the road to check their license and their sobriety.
JIM FELL: In those communities that had high traffic stops, the impaired driving was very low. In the communities that had very few traffic stops, the impaired driving was much higher, on the order of two to three times higher than in the communities that had many traffic stops.
NEIGHMOND: The same went for arrests for driving under the influence. The more arrests, the less drunk driving. In large part, Fell says, that's because when people see someone pulled to the side of the road by a cop, they'll likely consider their own speed and sobriety.
FELL: People see them, and they say, boy, the cops are out this weekend. I better be careful. I better not drink and drive.
NEIGHMOND: A few decades ago, the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving put faces behind the fatalities and pressured states to get tough with drunk driving laws. States responded and rates of drunk driving decreased by nearly half. Researcher Fell says it's time to step up enforcement once again. Right now, a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 percent means intoxication.
FELL: And that's about four drinks for a 170-pound male within one hour on an empty stomach, so you can imagine that's quite a bit of alcohol.
NEIGHMOND: A lot more than some countries allow. In Australia and all of Europe, drivers are considered drunk if they've consumed about two and half drinks in one hour. Adopting similar standards has been recommended by highway state officials in this country. But so far, no states have made the change. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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