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Directions in Highway Safety, Fall 2007 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Fall 2007 | Vol. 10 | No. 3

Washington State Demonstration Project Shows Drivers are Impaired Below .08

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A just-completed research demonstration in Washington State has shown that drivers are dangerously impaired by alcohol at levels well below .08 percent BAC. The demonstration was a partnership between the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Washington State Patrol and MADD. It was the first-ever "drinking lab" in the state to involve actual driving by volunteers dosed with precise amounts of alcohol.

Four volunteers were given the precisely-measured drinks and had their BAC measured. They were then asked to drive a slow-speed course that involved turning, backing up and parking. The drivers clearly had difficulty maintaining straight travel between cones that delineated the course. The volunteers reported that they felt surprisingly impaired even at .04-well below the legal limit.

MADD Chief Executive Officer Chuck Hurley (second from left), MADD National President Glynn Birch and Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director Lowell Porter field questions from the media.MADD Chief Executive Officer Chuck Hurley (second from left), MADD National President Glynn Birch and Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director Lowell Porter field questions from the media.

According to Lowell Porter, Safety Commission director, "The results of this project will help us to better train law enforcement officers to more accurately identify a drunk driver. Additionally, these results will give us excellent tools to educate the public and raise their awareness of how new technology can help in the fight against drunk driving."

Also demonstrated were alcohol ignition interlocks, devices that some convicted offenders are required to have on their vehicles. The impaired volunteers tried to start the cars with the interlocks but could not do so. Sober troopers then blew in the devices, and the cars started immediately.