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South Carolina's Omnibus Highway Safety Act Makes Zero Tolerance for Youth the Law of the Land

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

South Carolina's Omnibus Highway Safety Act Makes Zero Tolerance for Youth the Law of the Land

June 29, 1998

NHTSA 35-98
June 29, 1998
Contact: Kathryn Henry
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

President Clinton today praised South Carolina for passing a zero tolerance law prohibiting young people from drinking and driving. With today's signing of the Omnibus Highway Safety Act, South Carolina becomes the 50th state to enact zero tolerance for young drivers.

"Three years ago I called upon the nation to pass zero tolerance laws in every state," President Clinton said. "With the signing of this legislation, zero tolerance will effectively become the law of the land, and I commend Governor Beasley and the South Carolina legislature for helping us meet this important national goal."

Zero tolerance laws make it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system, defined as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02 or less. Several studies show conclusively that zero tolerance laws save lives. For example, Maryland's zero tolerance law produced an 11 percent decrease in the number of drinking drivers under age 21 involved in crashes. In four other states, the number of late night fatal crashes of young drivers dropped 34 percent after zero tolerance laws, compared to a 7 percent drop for adult late night fatal crashes.

"Safety is President Clinton's highest transportation priority, and South Carolina's zero tolerance law concludes a chapter in making the nation's highways safer," U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater said. "Achieving zero tolerance laws for young drivers in every state was a result of partnership between the federal and state governments which will save lives and prevent injuries."

Thousands of young people lose their lives in highway crashes each year. In South Carolina last year, 71 people under age 21 lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes.

At a news conference and bill signing in Columbia, S.C., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Deputy Administrator Philip Recht said, "Today South Carolina takes a giant step forward in protecting our young people against impaired driving. Nationally, we are all moving in the right direction. We have momentum. We are enacting good laws and enforcing those laws."

In 1995, President Clinton set a national goal to reduce alcohol-related fatalities to 11,000 by 2005. Achieving that goal in 2005 will save 6,500 lives per year, or 18 lives each day. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities last year dropped to the lowest level since record-keeping began in 1975, accounting for 39.3 percent, or about 16,500, of the estimated 42,000 traffic fatalities in 1997.

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