According to a recommendation given by members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 2013, states should lower the legal blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit from .08 to .05. The NTSB pointed to the fact that 10,000 people are killed in car crashes each year by drivers who have been drinking, but who are not at the .08 limit. According to government statistics, a driver with a .08 BAC increases his or her chance of being involved in a crash by 169 percent; a driver with a BAC of .05 increases his or her chance of being involved in a crash by 38 percent. The NTSB pointed out that most industrialized nations have a BAC limit of .05. In 2000, former President Bill Clinton signed a law that would prevent states from receiving federal highway funds if they did not adopt the .08 BAC limit.
A person’s BAC varies by weight, gender and how much he or she has eaten. However, under normal conditions, a typical 180-pound man could consume four beers in a 90 minute period without reaching the .08 limit. However, the same man could only consume three beers in the same time period to reach the .05 limit.
Sarah Longwell, managing director at the American Beverage Institute, disagrees with the board’s recommendation. She said, “Moving from .08 to .05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior.” Furthermore, she pointed out that “further restriction of moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hard-core drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.”
In addition to lowering the BAC limit, the NTSB also recommended that first-time drunk driving offenders be required to install Breathalyzer interlock devices in their cars. Such devices prevent a car from starting if a person blows into it and has been drinking. Moreover, the board suggested that research should be done to look into requiring all vehicles to contain alcohol sensors on steering wheels that would detect a person’s BAC through his or her palm.
However, according to J.T. Griffin, spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, reducing the BAC limit to .05 would only target social drinkers. While he said his organization wouldn’t oppose such a change, he stated that other measures, such as requiring mandatory interlock devices for all DWI offenders, would be more effective in targeting drunk drivers. He said his group also favors allowing highway patrol officers to automatically take the license of anyone they arrest for drinking and driving.
Each year, drunk driving accounts for 30 percent of all vehicle fatalities.
Website Resource: States Urged to Cut Limit on Alcohol for Drivers, NY Times, Matthew L. Wald, May 14, 2013