Drinking tops the list of national pastimes.
Two studies show skyrocketing drinking by Americans.
The Centers for Disease Control report binge drinking increased eleven percent from 2011 to 2017. CDC defines binge drinking of alcohol as downing four drinks during one occasion for women, five drinks for men. Under the most recent numbers available, the number of drinks consumed annually increased from 472 on average in 2011 to 529 in 2017.
The second study shows a darker side. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism looked at death certificates of Americans aged 16 and up. They started with the year 1999 and went to 2017. From nearly 36 thousand alcohol related deaths in the first year, the number doubled to over 72 thousand in 2017. In other words the death rate attributed to alcohol spiked from 16.9 deaths per 100 thousand in 1999 to 25.5 per 100 thousand during the time period.
Alcohol enjoys a storied past in the law.
The above studies came out 100 years … almost to the day … after prohibition went into effect.
“Americans are drinking more now than when Prohibition was enacted.”
Associated Press. Jan. 14, 2020.
Drinking and Prohibition
It’s true. A constitutional amendment, the 18th Amendment, went into effect on Jan. 17, 1920 outlawing the manufacture, distribution and sale of liquor. (Except for “purely medicinal purposes”.) So-called “Prohibition” lasted 13 years. December 5, 1933 saw ratification of the 21st Amendment, repealing the 18th Amendment.
Imagine the gridlocked Congress and “polarized” U.S. public at large actually passing a U.S. Constitutional Amendment. What does it take to amend the Constitution? I’ll get back to that below.
Another part of the storied past of alcohol in the law comes in impaired driving.
Drinking and Driving, Alcohol Related Car Accidents Still a Danger
In 2013 the NTSB listed 19 recommendations targeted at eliminating alcohol-impaired driving crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board called for stronger laws, swifter enforcement and expanded use of technology. The USA’s top highway safety agency set a goal of reaching “zero alcohol-impaired crashes.”
The road to “zero alcohol-impaired driving deaths” promises a tough ride. Each year nearly 10,000 people die in crashes at the hand of alcohol-impaired drivers. The NTSB’s own numbers show over 173,000 injuries in accidents involving impaired drivers. 27-thousand suffer incapacitating injuries. Almost 440,000 people died in alcohol related crashes in the 30 years before the numbers were compiled.
“Reaching zero deaths and injuries from alcohol-impaired driving will be challenging. But, the solution can be disarmingly simple. Buzzed or blitzed, it doesn’t matter what you call it―if you’re drinking, don’t drive.”
NTSB then-chair Deborah A.P. Hershman
So, the NTSB made numerous recommendations addressing drinking and driving. Five top proposals:
- Reduce blood alcohol concentration legal limit to .05. The legal “per se” BAC limit currently prohibits driving with level of .08 or higher.
- Require Alcohol Ignition Interlock on cars of those arrested of driving while intoxicated.
- Require medical schools to teach driving risks associated withcertain medical conditions and medications.
- Identify “hard core drinking drivers” and establish program to stop crashes & fatalities caused.
- Vigorously enforce youth drinking and driving laws to increase the percentage ofalcohol-impaired young drivers who are arrested.
Finally, NTSB refuses to call alcohol impaired crashes “accidents”. The agency claims “They are crimes” which can and should be prevented.
What does it take to amend the U.S. Constitution?
Two basic procedures exist for amending the U.S. constitution.
First, if and only if two-thirds of the members of both the U.S. House and Senate agree, a proposed amendment goes to all 50 states. Three-quarters of those states’ legislatures, 38 states out of 50, must vote to pass the amendment. If they do then the proposal becomes an amendment.
In another scenario, the legislatures of two-thirds of the states, 34 out of 50 states, call for a Constitutional Convention. At that point the U.S. Senate and House must meet jointly as such a convention. Any proposed Amendment coming out of such a meeting must then goes to the states. Again, three quarters of the states’ legislatures must vote yes.
Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution intentionally makes it as hard as possible to amend the document. That’s why as of this writing only 27 amendments exist.
Prohibition and its repeal brought a unique period in U.S. history. It represents one of the few times an issue saw amendment of the Constitution, then repeal of the same amendment. The colorful history of drinking alcohol made for some fun movies and books but little else of long term value.
Alcohol and the Law
Americans, or at least media folks, love studies. And the studies cited above show the average American drinks about 2.3 gallons of alcohol a year. That comes down to about 500 drinks per person per year. That means individually Americans consume about nine drinks a week. Just before Prohibition came into effect in 1920, the average American was drinking just under two gallons a year.
By the time lawmakers ended prohibition in the early 1930’s, per-capita alcohol consumption in the USA was down below one gallon a year. Even though drinking broke the law. Legal now for over 100 years drinking continues an upward trend.
States make money from liquor sales. New Hampshire’s state budget, fiscal year 2020, looks for $74.2 Million state revenue from the state liquor stores. So don’t expect a repeat of prohibition, probably one of the least popular acts of Congress in history. But do expect continued efforts to prevent drinking and driving like those only summarized above.
Drunk drivers threaten other people on the highways everywhere. Any crash can cause serious injuries, loss of earnings and other problems. Add to that insurance companies that try your patience, sometimes ignore your issues and often harass you to accept a low ball settlement.
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver or any other negligent driver contact the Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers. Click the “Schedule a Consultation” tab on this page. Or, call one of the telephone numbers at the top of this page.
Americans Drinking More Now than Before Prohibition, Associated Press, Chicago Sun Times, Jan. 17, 2020.
NTSB Unveils Interventions to Reach Zero Alcohol-Impaired Crashes. Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving. May 14, 2013.