The U.S. has been making progress in the battle against drunken driving, trimming the number of related deaths to about 10,000 a year, less than half the toll from when Ronald Reagan was president. But that is still a whole lot of alcohol-addled drivers mowing down pedestrians, wrapping their vehicles around utility poles, snuffing out lives on the streets and parkways.
The National Transportation Safety Board, for one, isn't satisfied with those losses. Its latest proposal urges states to reduce the blood-alcohol threshold for DUI arrests from 0.08 to 0.05, a nearly 38 percent decline.
Nobody expects the states to rush to adopt the lower limit - over the hysterical objections from the food and beverage industries - but policymakers and motorists alike should take notice of the NTSB's well-reasoned position.
"Buzzed or blitzed, it doesn't matter what you call it - if you're drinking, don't drive," said board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman, in touting the recommendation.
Her point: Motorists with alcohol concentration levels as low as 0.01 show signs of impaired driving; levels as low as 0.05 are associated with significantly increased risk of fatal crashes.
Motorists with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 are 38 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than someone who has not been drinking at all.
"Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable," Hersman said. "Alcohol-impaired deaths are not accidents, they are crimes. They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will."
In Europe, the share of traffic deaths linked to drunken driving was cut by more than half within 10 years after the standard was dropped, The Associated Press reported. That is no insignificant change.
Even still, nobody expects the states to rush to the 0.05 limit - one that has been embraced by neither Mothers Against Drunk Driving nor the policy making National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But MADD, while not opposing the move, properly advocates for states to make better use of technology, such as Breathalyzer ignition-locking devices, to prevent convicted drunken drivers from re-offending - much as New York does through its Leandra's Law.
A nation with "will" would also press to make such devices standard equipment in vehicles - in acknowledgment that Americans make about 16 million alcohol-impaired driving trips annually; about 1.46 million lead to arrests.
States can also do more - through law enforcement, the courts and administratively - to track, target and penalize drunken drivers.
And motorists must do their part - by appreciating that 10,000 drinking-related deaths are still too many, and by acting on the knowledge that drinking and driving is a deadly mix, by virtually any standard.