Federal Agency Recommends Lowering Drunk Driving Limit

If highway experts at one federal agency have their way, the number of drinks a person can have before getting behind the wheel legally is about to go down.

The National Transportation Safety Board is urging states to lower the blood-alcohol content level at which drivers are considered legally drunk. The Board wants to see states lower BAC limits from .08 to .05, meaning a driver whose BAC meets or exceeds this level can be charged with driving under the influence.

“Most Americans think that we’ve solved the problem of impaired driving, but in fact, it’s still a national epidemic,” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a press release announcing the recommendation. “On average, every hour one person is killed and 20 more are injured.”

Federal lawmakers forced states to adopt a .08 cutoff for DUI by passing legislation 13 years ago that would have withheld money for highways from any state that didn’t comply. NTSB points out that more than 100 countries in six continents have set the drunk driving limit at .05 or lower.

“The research clearly shows that drivers with a BAC above 0.05 are impaired and at a significantly greater risk of being involved in a crash where someone is killed or injured,” Hersman said. The Board specifically cited figures showing that impairment for some drivers starts with one single drink.

The announcement came May 14, which the agency said is the 25th anniversary of the deadliest drunk driving crash in American history. A total of 27 people, including 24 children, were killed in Carrollton, Ky. when a drunk driver traveling the wrong way slammed his pickup truck head on into a school bus.

The Board also recommended that states take further action to ensure that drivers convicted of DUI are required to install an ignition interlock device in their cars, forcing the driver to take a breathalyzer test before starting the vehicle and intermittently while in transit. For example, NTSB said that states could require a person whose license is suspended as a result of a DUI to prove that he or she has had an interlock device installed before being able to get the license back.

Experts say the effort to lower BAC limits is likely to face resistance. “Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute told NBC News. “Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hardcore drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.”

It is important that drivers remain well aware of the laws relating to drunk driving and the limits at which a person is considered legally intoxicated. A DUI conviction is a serious matter that can have far-reaching effects. With offices in Fort Lauderdale, the South Florida DUI defense lawyers at Anidjar & Levine have vast experience representing clients throughout the region, including in Hialeah, Pompano Beach and Coral Springs. Call our office at 800-747-3733 for a free consultation.

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