Drinking-Driver Problem--What Can Be Done About It?

CED-79-33: Published: Feb 21, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 21, 1979.

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Drinking of alcoholic beverages has become a commonly accepted lifestyle throughout most of the world. In the United States, 71 percent of the adults have identified themselves as drinkers and, since 1935, per capita consumption has increased 110 percent for beer, 347 percent for wine, and 183 percent for distilled spirits. This drinking lifestyle has long been recognized for its tragic contribution to highway deaths and related injuries and property damage. Government at all levels, private organizations, and concerned citizen groups are spending millions of dollars on various drinking-driver programs, yet statistics continue to indicate that, overall, one-half of highway fatalities in the United States are related to alcohol.

Research on alcohol abuse and the drinking-driver problem, Federal project evaluations, and views of individuals knowledgeable in the traffic safety field led GAO to conclude that society's general acceptance of drinking and driving is the main obstacle to solving the drinking-driver problem. Before any significant reduction in alcohol-related traffic accidents will occur, a long term continuous educational commitment must be made. Governments, educational institutions, and the general public need to work together to change attitudes about drinking and driving.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation, as part of his responsibility to improve traffic safety, should lead this educational effort by providing encouragement, technical assistance, and financial assistance to State and local governments and private organizations. The Secretary, as part of a Federal commitment to emphasize the importance of programs to counter alcohol abuse, should work with other Federal agency heads to establish a mechanism for coordinating alcohol-related activities in developing an aggressive national program to deal with the entire alcohol abuse problem and specifically with the drinking driver. The Secretary should also identify those States which need to give higher priority to alcohol countermeasures, and encourage them to do so in their traffic safety programs. Because alcohol remains the largest single factor in highway deaths, the Secretary should continually: (1) assign high priority to efforts to combat the drinking-driver problem; (2) support research to develop evaluation measures for anti-drinking-driver programs; (3) serve as a center for disseminating information to States on efforts which have the best potential for reducing traffic deaths and injuries; (4) support training and educational programs for law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors, and others to enhance their knowledge of and commitment to solving the drinking-driver problem; and (5) support nationwide and local programs to inform the public about the drinking-driver problem and what it can do to help reduce the problem.

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