NTSB recommends lower blood-alcohol limit for DUIs

12:30 AM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
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NTSB recommends lower blood-alcohol limit for DUIs

On Tuesday, the National Transportation and Safety Board recommended lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit from 0.08 to 0.05 to qualify for a DUI.

NTSB said lowering the legal limit will reduce the risk of fatal crashes due to impairment by about half.

Any changes to the limit will be up to individual states.

Tennessee State Representative Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) said he supports consumption restrictions, but explained, some states could be influenced by the incentives or disincentives offered by the government.

"We've seen in the past, the federal government will tie some strings to some money that the state's getting, perhaps for safety programs or road projects," Dunn said. "Say, well, you'll get more money if you drop this down to 0.05."

He expects a bill will be introduced in Tennessee next session, but isn't yet sure what kind of support it will draw.

"I know that there'll be a lot of people who sell alcohol, who have restaurants, who will be very opposed to this effort. However, I also know there are a lot of legislators who have lost family members to drunk drivers," he said. "And so it will be interesting when this bill is introduced to see how people react.

USA Today reports one group, the American Beverage Institute, strongly opposes the new proposed limit.

According to their data, one drink is classified as a 12 ounce beer, 1.25 ounces of liquor or a five-ounce glass of wine.

The institute claims, on average, a 200 pound man could consume four drinks before reaching a 0.08 blood alcohol level.  If the legal limit dropped to 0.05, that same man would reach the limit after two and a half drinks.

According to the same data, a 140 pound woman would reach a 0.08 BAC after 2.5 drinks, and 0.05 BAC after just a drink and a half.

Casual Pint owner Nathan Robinette said his typical customers aren't the type to down too many beers then drive.

"People down here, they get off work, have a couple of beers, and then go home. They're perfectly fine when they leave," he said, before explaining what the limit could mean.

"That 0.05 makes them not perfectly fine, and it really broadens what it means to be a drunk driver."

Robinette said if states change the limit, it could cause serious damage to businesses like his.

"The non-premise business would shut down. You could certainly come in and fill a growler and grab a six pack, but you wouldn't hang out a bar and have a beer for fear you're going to get a DUI."

NBC reports, the United States, Canada, and Iraq are among a small handful of countries that have set the legal limit at 0.08 for intoxicated driving. However, the legal limit already sits at 0.05 for most countries in Europe, in South America and Australia.

When Australia dropped its level from 0.08 to 0.05, provinces reported a significant drop in traffic deaths.

NTSB says if all 50 states in the U.S. dropped the limit to 0.05, nearly 1,000 lives could be saved each year.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD has offered its support for the recommendation. They following is part of the group's statement:

MADD appreciates the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for bringing the American public's attention to the fact that drinking and driving continues to be a major problem on our highways-killing almost 10,000 people a year-and that additional steps have to be taken to save the unnecessary loss of life and injuries that occur as a result of these crashes. Above all, MADD strongly recommends that the safest course of action is to not drink and drive.

The focus of our advocacy remains on the continued implementation of our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® (CEDD). It is important to note that the CEDD has been structured to maximize the number of lives saved as quickly as possible and, when fully implemented, is projected to save approximately 8,000 lives a year.

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