Compared to most other countries, the U.S. has a lax standard for determining whether someone behind the wheel is driving drunk. The U.S. is one of only 16 nations with a limit for blood alcohol content of .08.
In contrast, many European countries have decreased their limits to .05 or lower — and that difference appears to have saved many lives, Time reports.
For instance, after Switzerland reduced its limit from .08 to .05 in 2005, drunk driving deaths abruptly declined. France had a similar experience when it reduced its blood alcohol limit to .05 in 1995.
To look at it another way, the latest figures show that in Sweden, which also has a .05 limit, roughly 16 percent of road fatalities are alcohol-related. In the U.S., the percentage in recent years has hovered around 32 percent. Last year, alcohol-related road deaths in the U.S. totaled 10,839.
According to the University of Oklahoma Police Department’s calculator for blood alcohol content, a 180-pound man registers a .08 consuming six 12-ounce beers or five gin-and-tonics in a span of two hours. Still, the .08 standard is a legislative improvement over the previous limit of .15 in some states, a level that equates to drinking more than eight beers within two hours.
Some legislative efforts have been made to strengthen drunk-driving laws in the U.S. That includes the Roads Safe Act introduced this year, which would authorize funding to develop technology that would prevent intoxicated people from driving. It is estimated that this technology could prevent 8,000 deaths annually.