Tuesday, 14. May 2013
On Tuesday, federal accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board recommended reducing the nationwide legal BAC limit from .08 to .05 in an effort to reduce drunken driving fatalities.
The proposal was one of nearly 20 recommendations the NTSB offered in hopes of cutting down on drunken driving fatalities, which account for roughly 10,000 of the 30,000 yearly deaths on US roads.
In their argument, the NTSB cited over 100 countries that have adopted the .05 legal limit. Investigators pointed to the significant reduction in drunken driving fatalities in Europe within ten years of the .05 legal limit taking effect.
While everyone can agree that we would benefit from reducing the number of traffic fatalities, more drivers may be at risk for driving under the influence if the proposal went into effect. A woman who weighs less than 120 pounds can register a BAC above .05 after only one drink, while a 160 pound man could get there after two drinks. The recommendation has the potential to put many people at risk of driving over the limit if they simply have a beer or two during dinner or with friends.
NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said she wants to focus on drunk driving fatalities because they are more preventable than other traffic accidents.
“Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable,” Hersman said. “Alcohol-impaired deaths are not accidents, they are crimes. They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will.”
While the recommendation may have some powerful proponents, it will likely be met with significant resistance at the state level. Jonathan Adkins, an official with the Governors Highway Safety Association, said the proposal would face significant backlash because it has the potential to strongly influence both societal and economic norms.
“It was very difficult to get .08 in most states so lowering it again won’t be popular,” Adkins said. “The focus in the states is on high (blood alcohol content) offenders as well as repeat offenders. We expect industry will also be very vocal about keeping the limit at .08.”
The NTSB also called for states to adopt stricter Ignition Interlock Device laws, which require some DUI offenders to install a device to monitor their BAC before they drive. The NTSB said the IID laws have failed to significantly reduce drunken driving fatalities because many individuals refuse to have the device installed in their vehicles.
Criminal Defense Attorney Geoffrey Saltzstein comments
Unfortunately, the NTSB is attempting to battle drunk-driving the same way that we’ve fought the “war on drugs,” a policy akin to relieving a headache by punching yourself in the face.
What the numbers don’t tell you is that the vast majority of alcohol related traffic deaths are committed by young drivers, repeat offenders, high blood alcohol concentrations or some combination of those three.
The actual reason behind the reduction in alcohol-related traffic deaths over the last two decades was the raising the legal age of alcohol consumption to 21, eliminating a large percentage of traffic deaths due to alcohol consumers under the age of 21.
Lowering the legal limit to .05 does not do anything for the other two categories. All it does is force states to spend more of their already limited resources fighting first-time, low-level DWI offenders.
Comparing the US to Europe in terms of DWI is like comparing apples to Volkswagens. We need to battle the addiction behind high BAC and multiple offenders, or we’ll keep spinning our tires, much like the old “war on drugs”.
Related source: Fox News