In the United States, driving under the influence carries with it the risk of stiff penalties. In most states, being charged with a drunk driving offense often results in jail time, loss of license and high fines. While many people caught driving under the influence are often repeat offenders, new research indicates that the punishment that comes with such offenses often deters repeat offenses.
Researchers at the University of Oregon have found that drunk driving punishments reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses, and lowering the blood alcohol content (BAC) thresholds will discourage drunk driving, Science Daily reports. Stiffer penalties that reflect the level of one’s BAC was found to reduce repeat offenses as well.
In many states, there are varying levels of DUIs; double .08 often results in an extreme DUI charge which usually carries double the penalties. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would like to lower the minimum BAC threshold to .05, but the study author said, the plan assumes an annual fatality reduction of 500 to 800 and fails to target the most dangerous drunk drivers.
“If you look at fatalities involving BAC between .05 and .08 there are about 800 a year,” said Benjamin Hansen, a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research. “The NTSB has to be assuming that everyone who is now drunk driving at those levels is going to stop drinking and driving when the limit is lowered to .05.”
However, Hansen points out that most fatal accidents involved drivers with BACs ranging from .13 to .24, according to the article.
“These drivers are the most costly. In terms of fatality risk, a person with a BAC of .15 is about 20-30 times more dangerous than a person who is sober,” Hansen said. “I think we might see even greater benefits if we were to increase the sanctions, or punishments, more steeply along the BAC distribution.”
The findings were published in the American Economic Review.