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COLLEGE OF AMERICAN PATHOLOGISTS / ALFRED S. ERCOLANO, Director
1101 VERMONT AVE., N.W. 1 SUITE 401
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20005
January 19, 1984
We enclose for your information a recent news release that addresses a major health and safety concern that of alcohol related traffic deaths. The College of American Pathologists recently developed a news feature detailing studies in four states showing that alcohol-related accidents resulting in death are much higher than generally reported.
Stimulated by the reaction of a Minnesota pathologist who heard a national television newscast give a much lower figure than his own experience, the studies demonstrate the first-hand, daily awareness of the magnitude of the problem as seen by pathologists performing autopsies as medical examiners or as hospital-based community pathologists.
The response to our article has been phenomenal, generating hundreds of newspaper articles, coverage on Cable News Network and CBS and Mutual Radio Network, as well as calls from James Fell of the National Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, anti-drunk driving groups, state legislators and legislative staff, television stations, universities, libraries, and private citizens.
Recognizing the importance of the subject and knowing that you share the college's concern about alcohol-related traffic deaths in this country, we would like to encourage distribution of this information and are happy to provide access to our member pathologists' expertise in this important issue.
The CAP is currently developing a survey of its 9,500 members to collect statistics for individual counties or states on alcohol-related traffic deaths. The survey will compile information on how and what information is collected and also ask whether the local area requires blood alcohol content tests (BACS).
For additional information, please contact Barbara Chapman, CAP, 7400 N. Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL 60077, 312-677-3500, Ext. 457.
once the Court determines that Congress acted rationally in adopting a par
29/ ticular regulatory scheme."
the "rational basis" test has develop
ed as the constitutional measure of commerce based legislation.
The bill specifically includes as proposed findings of fact that the
consumption of alcoholic beverages is a na jor cause of vehicle accidents,
that a large number of these accidents are caused by drivers under the
age of 21 and that the proposed legislation is necessary for the public
safety and welfare.
Assuming that the legislative record adequately sup
ports these statutory and related legislative findings, Congress may well
have the power under the Commerce Clause to enact the proposed legis
As the Court has stated:
"The Court must defer to a congression
al finding that regulated activity affects interstate commerce, if there
30/ is any rational basis for such a finding.'
Congress has legislated in a variety of areas for the protection of
The Court has upheld federal legislation forbidding the
sale of misbranded drugs that have moved in Interstate commerce, even when
the drugs are ultimately sold by a retailer who received them from an in
31/ state wholesaler. The Court has also upheld federal legislation forbidding
discrimination against Blacks by a small restaurant where the restaurant
purchased 46 percent of its food from a local supplier who had procured it
32/ from outside the state. Under the circumstances of the bill, the
29/ Ibid., at 276.
30/ Hodel, 452 U.S. at 276. See also, Heart of Atlanta Model Inc., 379 U.S. at 256; and Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. at 303-304.
31/ United States v. Sullivan, 332 U.S. 689 (1948).
32/ Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964).
national traffic in alcoholic beverages and the substantial impact on interstate commerce caused by those who drink and drive appear to be within the purview of the commerce power. Thus it appears that a compelling argument can be made for the bill's constitutionality under the commerce clause since there appears to be a rational basis for the proposed legislative
"In driver fatalities resulting from single car crashes, legal intoxication levels are found about 65 per cent of the time. Add the drivers with alcohol at less than the legally presumptive intoxication concentration, which is .1 grams per cent, and our totals would then approach 80 per cent of drivers killed."
Figures from a 1981-82 study of drivers in single vehicle accidents who died within an hour of the crash show 80 per cent had been drinking, with 68 per cent at the .l intoxication level. of the drivers killed in multiple vehicle accidents, 34 per cent had been drinking, of which 25 per cent were intoxicated. Over the 13-year period 1970 through 1982, Dr. Hudson reports, 68 per cent of all fatalities resulting from single vehicle accidents -- or 2,745 of 4,038 drivers had been drinking, with 2,342 or 58 per cent - intoxicated. Multiple vehicle accident statistics show that of 3,461 drivers killed, 1,211
or 35 per cent had been drinking, and 934 or 27 per cent -- were at the legal intoxication level.
The driver alcohol.use rate la fatalities due to multiple car accidents appears to run only about 40 per cent, Dr. Hudson suggests, "presumably because there are essentially innocent drivers who are killed by cars driven by persons who have been drinking but survive the accident."
However, Dr. Hudson adds, "there are certain times and situations where I would bet aine to one on alcohol being present in motor vehicle accidents. An example would be a Friday or Saturday night episode involving a single car crash where the driver is a male in his 208. Io 90 per cent of such cases, that accident might be alcohol-related."
One of the persoas most surprised at the Fulton County findings is Ruth Berkelman, M.D., the medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta who directed the study there. Dr. Berkelman was serving a residency in preventive medicine with the Georgia Department of Human Resources when she became involved in the motor vehicle accident study. Her original thought was "to show the medical examiner's data base as something that public health personnel should be looking at as a part of preventive medicine efforts."
As she worked on the motor vehicle accident study, Dr. Berkelman became lacreasingly surprised "at the proportion of alcohol lavolvement in these cases. I believed it was a problem about half the time, but the statistics la Pulcon County were showing me that a higher percentage was alcohol-related. In single vehicle accidents, 76 per cent of the drivers had been drinking, and in 94 per cent of the multiple vehicle accidents in which BACs were performed, results showed at least one driver had been drinking."
Tenth Amendment simply because it exercises its authority under the Comberce Clause in a manner that displaces the state's exercise of its police
In the states where the state itself sells alcoholic beverages the Tenth Amendment analysis is different since there the bill would involve the federal government in directly regulating the states themselves. In these cases, the test of federal power derives from the Court's decision
35/ in National League_of Cities v. Usery. The Court analyzed National League as establishing four tests, all of which had to be met before the federal legislation would be declared invalid. These tests required: 1) the federal statute must regulate the states as states; 2) the federal regulation must address matters that are without doubt attributable to state sovereignty; 3) the federal regulation must directly impair the state's ability to structure integral operations in areas of traditional state functions; and 4) even if the three preceding requirements are all net, a balancing test night still demonstrate that the federal Interest is so great as to justify
361 state su bu ission.
Applying these criteria to the bill, the first standard does not appear
to be aet.
It 16 uncertain whether or not the Court would find that the
sale of alcoholic beverages is an uncontested attribute of state sovereignty as required by the second test articulated above. Furthermore, it may be
34/ Ibid., at 290-291.
35/426 U.S. 833 (1976).
36/ Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining and Reclamation Association, Inc., 452 u.s. 264, 287-288 (1981); and United Transportation Union v. Long Island R. Co., 455 U.S. 678, 684 (1982).