Following the UK’s Lead to Decrease Alcohol-Related Deaths in the U.S.

Seventeen years ago, controversy swept the nation over lowering the national legal blood alcohol concentration limit from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent. However, as a result of that 1999 decision, DUI fatalities have declined by a third—a decrease of over 4,000 deaths a year.

Furthermore, research and insight into DUI accidents and alcohol consumption over the past two decades have documented alcohol’s significant health risks. Alcohol awareness has become not only a national issue but a global one, compelling countries to set stricter DUI laws and enforce alcohol consumption limits.

In June 2015, the United Kingdom decided to test even stricter guidelines than those of the United States, in an effort to help decrease alcohol-related deaths even further.

United Kingdom’s New Guideline Changes

At the request of the United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs)—roughly equivalent to the authority of the U.S. Surgeon General—in January 2013, three independent groups of experts began an extensive investigation on the health effects and risks of alcohol. They spent nearly three years gathering evidence in order to decide whether their findings were sufficient to justify new guidelines on alcohol consumption.

The findings were indeed adequate. Once the evidence and research were compiled, the CMOs discussed and accepted the advice of the focus groups and agreed that the following recommendations should be made to the country about drinking habits.

Episodic drinking

When drinking socially, men and women who wish to keep their short-term health and accident risks at a minimum are advised to:

  • Measure. When planning on drinking for an extended period of time, limit the total amount of alcohol you drink to below two units an hour (one glass of wine, one shot of liquor, one cider).
  • Dilute. When planning on drinking for a long period, space your drinks out by drinking more slowly. You should also dilute the effects of alcohol by drinking with food and alternating with water.
  • Plan ahead. When you think you may wind up drinking too much, avoid risky places and activities and make sure you have people you know around to ensure that you can get home safely.

Overall drinking

In addition to making suggestions to the public, the CMOs have also suggested that the United Kingdom unifies its intoxication laws to agree with Ireland’s laws, lowering the blood alcohol limit to 0.05% across the board. Currently, some regions within the UK continue to have the same limit as the United States: a threshold of 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drunkenness.

Should the U.S. Follow Suit?

Drinking and driving has become an epidemic in the United States, affecting nearly four million people a year. Nearly a quarter of the population over 18 years of age admit to binge drinking on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom reports that their alcohol consumption and drunk-driving accident statistics are improving, with 20% of the population drinking less than one alcoholic beverage a week and only 3,000 injuries occurring from DUIs. Although the U.S. has its own tactics to combat intoxicated driving, if the European rates continue to fall, the U.S. may feel compelled to follow its lead and reduce the legal BAC limit even further to protect motorists and drinkers alike.

Is it time that the United States look across the pond when it comes to alcohol regulations? Should the U.S. decrease our BAC limits and put more effort into discouraging alcohol consumption? Is this the next logical step to decrease DUI accidents? If we did, perhaps DUI victims wouldn't be as severely injured. In addition, more accident victims might be able to collect fair damages by showing drivers with lower blood alcohol readings are indeed impaired.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section provided on this page. For more information on alcohol risks and impairments, feel free to browse our extensive library of articles; we encourage our clients to learn from our experience.

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