Canada, with a drinking age of 18 or 19 depending on the province, has also seen more success overall than the USA, though not quite as much as Australia has. Like the USA, they had been slacking a bit from the mid-1990s through the 2000s, though recently some provinces like Alberta and British Columbia have toughened up and resumed their previous decades of progress. And in the past decade the USA has stepped up enforcement a bit as well. But truly there is much more room for improvement in the USA, which out of all "developed" nations has generally seen the least amount of overall progress in reducing traffic deaths despite (or perhaps because of) raising the drinking age to 21 in the 1980s.
So what does Twenty-One Debunked recommend that we do to "finish the job", aside from lowering the drinking age to 18 and raising the alcohol excise taxes? Well, for starters, we could:
- Lower the BAC limit to 0.05, with graduated penalties that rise dramatically with BAC.
- Increase the use and frequency of sobriety checkpoints and/or roving patrols to catch drunk drivers.
- Impose administrative sanctions, such as license suspensions and vehicle impoundment, including for drivers of with BAC of 0.05-0.08. (British Columbia and Alberta are good models to follow in that regard)
- Require alcohol ignition interlocks for all impaired driving offenders (and make it a standard feature on all new vehicles as well).
Another idea, loosely borrowed from UCLA researcher Mark Kleiman, would be the "blacklist". To wit, if someone is convicted of drunk driving, drunk violence, drunk vandalism, or repeated drunk and disorderly conduct, they would be banned from purchasing alcohol or entering a bar for at least a year or until 21, whichever is longer. Subsequent offenses would be two or more years. Ditto for anyone who buys or furnishes alcohol to anyone under 18 (other than one's own child) or any adult who has been blacklisted thusly. Driver licenses or ID cards to blacklisted individuals would read "do not serve alcohol under penalty of law". Additionally, we can allow problem drinkers without convictions to opt-in voluntarily to be blacklisted as well for up to five years, much like they have for casino gambling in some states. We could call such a program "86 Me" or something along those lines, and that looks very promising indeed.
It's 2016, and time to finish the job already. The question is, do our leaders have the intestinal fortitude to do so?