States Respond to Call from NTSB to Lower Legal BAC Limit to .05

In May, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report with alarming statistics regarding alcohol related vehicle fatalities and injuries.  Specifically, the report indicated 30% of vehicle fatalities are tied to drunk driving; and, drunk driving contributed to around 10,000 fatalities per year.  In response to these statistics, the NTSB is urging states to reduce the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit to 0.05 from 0.08.  The hope is to deter more people from drinking and driving.  States like California are taking the request seriously.  In California, state officials are doing their own research; testing drivers with simulator goggles to see how they respond at the reduced level before making a determination to make a statewide change.  On the other hand, state lawmakers in Indiana say a lower legal limit will never happen.  Of course, opinions run the spectrum on this issue.  Many people urging lawmakers in their states to focus more on curtailing texting and driving, as it causes nearly as many accidents as drunk driving.  Whether more of the 49 other states decides to join Colorado in lowering their BAC limits remains to be seen.

Should the law change in more states, it could mean significantly more alcohol related arrests nationwide, even for those who are supposed to be “good to drive” at the end of the night. The results of a new University of Florida study found “designated drivers” are generally chosen by selecting the “least drunk” individual, and that 35% of the designated driver tested for the study had consumed alcohol.  The study included breath testing of more than 1,000 “party-goers” at a bar in a “major university town in the Southeast” (presumably the Gainesville area, where the University of Florida is based). Researchers asked for volunteers, between 10 pm and 2:30 am, who were leaving a bar to participate in the testing. All identified themselves as the chosen designated drivers. The majority were white, male college students with an average age of 28.  The results, published in the July issue of The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, were surprising.  Thirty five percent of designated drivers had consumed alcohol that evening.  Of those, half recorded a blood alcohol content over .05.  That is enough to be convicted of DWAI in Colorado, or any other state that adopts the .05 limit.

Other efforts by the NTSB include urging mandatory interlock devices for all drivers convicted of drinking and driving.

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