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The NTSB Wants to Lower the Blood Alcohol Level for Drunk Driving

Drunk Driving
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that states lower the blood alcohol level for drunk driving to .05% from .08%. The NTSB believes at least 1,000 lives could be saved each year if this plan were to be adopted. It would be up to the individual states to pass such legislation. Currently, all 50 states have .08 as the standard by which a driver is considered impaired and subject to arrest. According to the NTSB, almost 10,000 people die each year as a result of alcohol related crashes and more than 170,000 are injured.

As you can imagine, not everyone is in favor of the drop to .05, in particular, restaurant trade groups who say a drop like that will cripple their sales. In fact, Sarah Longwell, managing director of American Beverage Institute says, “Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior.” Longwell also says that hardcore drunk drivers will get behind the wheel anyway regardless of the current standard or a new lower standard.

While it is true that lives will be saved, I’m not so sure that lowering the BAC level is the answer. I am certainly NOT in favor of anybody drinking and driving, but it seems to me the biggest problem lies in the penalties for drinking and driving, or rather the LACK of penalties to be more specific.

I truly believe that if the penalty for impaired driving was stiffer and much less tolerant, we might actually be able to make some progress here. How many times do we read about a guy who was arrested at the scene of an accident because he was drunk or impaired and had been arrested multiple times prior without any real penalty? The answer, ALL THE TIME, which is why I think it would be more prudent to look at how violators are penalized.

I’m not sure which country, it might be Bulgaria where your first offense carries with it a mandatory prison sentence…and not just for a day or two, but for months or even years, depending on the circumstances of the offense. That’s what we need here in this country.

More often than not, drunk drivers always seem to escape any real penalty for their actions beyond what is equal to a slap on the wrist. If a first offense means jail and the loss of your license for an extended period of time, that seems to be a much more effective deterrent than lowering the BAC level. As it is, you generally don’t get arrested unless you are over the limit, so I don’t think it really matters what the limit is.

Again, I am NOT an advocate for impaired driving under any circumstances, I just think common sense tells us that lowering the limit will not be as effective as a very harsh and potentially life altering penalty for the decision to drink and drive.

By the way, when the limit was lowered to .08 from .10, it took almost 21 years for all states to implement the lower limit…just sayin’.

[NBC News]

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