Thursday’s Sacramento Bee editorial page included a scathing review of the nationwide push for lowered drunk-driving arrest thresholds. So far, 17 states have resisted the federally strong-armed blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0.08, despite Uncle Sam’s threat to withhold vital highway funds from any state that dares stare him down.

But as we’ve been telling you, a 50-state march toward 0.08 standards will do little more than criminalize responsible adults. And public health evidence in support of 0.08 is sorely lacking. “Across the country,” notes the Bee, “having an 0.08 standard does not seem to lower the rate of alcohol-related deaths.”

Even more troubling: according to the Bee, it now seems that the generally accepted statistics on drunk-driving deaths are greatly exaggerated. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 17,448 people died in 2001 in alcohol-related traffic accidents. And MADD uses this number to claim that drunk drivers are responsible for 41 percent of all U.S. traffic fatalities. But the term “alcohol related” is a much broader catch-all than MADD’s zealots would have us believe.

Thursday’s Bee editorial quoted a Los Angeles Times story for its conclusion that “between 2,500 to 3,500 of those fatal crashes involved drivers who were not legally drunk, but where alcohol was detected. Another 1,770 crashes involved drunken pedestrians who walked in front of sober drivers. Another 8,000 involved single-car crashes in which the only person killed was the drunken driver. That leaves about 5,000 that actually involved innocent victims of a drunken driver.”

A serious problem, to be sure, but nowhere near the magnitude suggested by MADD in a bid to justify their prohibitionist-like campaign against any drinking prior to driving. According to the CDC, you are nearly 6 times more likely to commit suicide than to be killed by a drunk driver.