Drunk Driving BAC Limit May Drop

by Jim Adler

The amount of BAC, or blood alcohol content, to determine a drunk driver may drop from 0.08 to 0.05. A stricter standard is being recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C.

The NTSB advises that all 50 states reduce the level to 0.05 in order to help reduce the slaughter on America’s roads and highways due to drunk drivers, who kill around 10,000 Americans each year.

The NTSB believes reducing the BAC rate to 0.05 could save 500 to 800 lives per year.

To reach the 0.08 threshold, a male weighing 180 pounds would typically have to have four drinks within one hour. It would take only two to three drinks within an hour to reach the 0.05 mark. (Besides weight and sex, age also is a variable in assessing intoxication.)

Changing the legal BAC level is part of a concerted effort by the NTSB to achieve “Reaching Zero” in terms of alcohol-caused deaths on America’s roads and highways.

Other actions being considered by the NTSB are pressing for laws to require every first-time drunk-driving offender to have an ignition-locking device installed on their vehicle. That would prevent the vehicle from starting until breath samples are analyzed and clear the way.

Also, the NTSB may recommend that states let police quickly confiscate the driver’s license of a person who tops BAC limits.

The NTSB cannot compel such steps, but it can encourage them. In fact, it’s asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to give states financial incentives to reduce their legal BAC level.

Numerous states had a drunk-driving BAC level as high as 0.15 in the 1980s, but by 2004, every state had reduced its BAC level to 0.08.

That was largely in response to a horrific alcohol-related traffic death rate of 20,000 annually in 1980. Now it’s 10,000, but that’s still almost a third of all traffic deaths. And the terrible toll cannot be tolerated.

Consider this: Over history, drunk drivers have killed more Americans than have been killed by all of our enemies in all wars combined. In short, we have met the enemy, and it is us.

The NTSB points out that a number of other countries have a BAC of 0.05 as their standard for declaring a driver to be too drunk to drive. It also points out that even lower BAC levels than 0.05 can make a driver impaired and subject to such things as sleepiness, attention loss and deviations from the proper lane.

Already, commercial drivers have a 0.04 BAC limit for being deemed intoxicated, and drivers 20 and younger have zero tolerance.

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