Health

National Transportation Safety Board Wants to Lower Alcohol Limits for Drivers

Official U.S. Navy photo released by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas Public Affairs Officer, LT. A. Chisholm.

In 1982, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that every state in the U.S. reduce the drunken-driving limit from 0.10% to 0.08%. A year later, Utah became the first state to lower the limit, but it wasn’t until 2004 that all of the states reduced their limits to the current 0.08%. Now, the NTSB is pushing for it to be lowered to 0.05%.

Currently, there are over a hundred countries that enforce the drunken-driving levels at 0.05%. This leaves the U.S. as one of few developed countries with a higher level. The NTSB claims that if the limit is dropped to 0.05%, the risk of a crash is about half as much as at 0.08%. Deborah Hersman, the NTSB chairman, stated:

This is critical because impaired driving remains one of the biggest killers in the United States.”

The recommendation was applauded by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. However, MADD would also like to use technology to completely eliminate drunk driving by preventing intoxicated and previous offenders from getting behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, groups like the American Beverage Institute were against the report. Sarah Longwell, the institute’s managing director, said:

Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hard-core drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.”

So, that raises the question. How many drinks would it take for you to be over the suggested 0.05% limit? As many are aware, that depends on a number of factors including your sex and weight, as well as, what kind of alcoholic beverage a person is consuming. Using the calculator on the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation website, NPR found that a “man weighing 180 pounds who drank three beers in an hour would have a BAC of 0.052,” while a “120-pound woman would hit the same level drinking two beers over 60 minutes.”

Despite how people feel about decreasing the limit, fatalities related to drunk driving have been reduced. According to the NTSB, in 2010 there were more than 10,000 highway deaths that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. In 1998, that number was more than 18,000. With stricter alcohol limits, the NTSB believes that that number could go even lower.

For now, this is just a suggestion from the National Transportation Safety Board. And, it would probably take years for any new legislation to be enacted. Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for Governors Highway Safety Association, told USA Today that “When the limit was .10, it was very difficult to get it lowered to .08,” and he also added, “We don’t expect any state to go to .05.”

So, how do you all feel about the NTSB wanting to reduce the blood-alcohol level that qualifies as drunken driving to 0.05%? Do you think it will prevent fewer fatalities? Or, is it just punishing responsible adults?

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