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Plan would drop legally drunk from B.A. of 0.08 to 0.05

Police departments nationwide stand to cash in if state governments embrace a controversial plan proposed by The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to drop the definition of "drunk driving" from 0.08 to 0.05.  The five-member board voted unanimously to approve the new policy suggestion.

I. NTSB Says Its Time to Get Strict

Drunk driving laws in the U.S. first landed in the early 1900s; New York became the first state to ban it in 1910, with a legal blood alcohol limit of 0.15 percent blood alcohol.  For many decades the limit remained at 0.15 in many states; then in the 1980s a push by advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) led to states embracing a stricter limit of 0.08, while adopting "zero-tolerance" limits of 0.01 or 0.02 percent blood alcohol for teenage drivers.

The NTSB justifies yet another serious increase, arguing that alcohol remains responsible for a third of road deaths.  NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman says there's "no silver bullet" for drunk driving, but she comments, "This is critical because impaired driving remains one of the biggest killers in the United States.  In the last 30 years, more than 440,000 people have perished in this country due to alcohol-impaired driving. What will be our legacy 30 years from now?  If we don't tackle alcohol-impaired driving now, when will we find the will to do so?"

While body chemistry varies, a 180-pound (81.6 kg) male will typically hit 0.08 after four "drinks" (12 oz. domestic beers) over an hour, according to the University of Oklahoma.  Three drinks would be required to hit 0.06; however keep in mind that many "tall" (or standard size craft) beers or mixed drinks count as two or more "drinks".

II. Technology Battle Over Drunk Driving is Heated

According to the NTSB as little as 0.01 BAC (blood alcohol content) can lead to lane departures.  At 0.02 they exhibit drowsiness, and at 0.04 their vigilance is substantially reduced.
Global blood alcohol limits
Global blood alcohol limits [Image Source: NTSB]

Many police departments nationwide are increasing drunk driving ticket via another mechanism -- passive sensors.  Passive sensors "sniff" the air for the presence of alcohol during traffic stops, so that officers don't have to rely on driving behavior, driver demeanor, or breath odor (which might be influenced by mints or gum) to determine if a driver might be drunk.

Drunk driver
Police are increasing using passive sensors to catch drunk drivers. [Image Source: CNN]

At the same time some cases have challenged the accuracy/validity of breathalyzers, demanding their code be shared with defendants.

The issue is likely to remain a hot button topic for years to come, particularly if the NTSB succeeds in pushing this stricter standard on the public.  The NTSB has also been busy trying to crack down on distracted driving.  Texting while driving has been shown in some studies to be more dangerous than drunk driving.

Source: NTSB

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Where is the data?
By Etsp on 5/15/2013 12:11:32 PM , Rating: 4
Where is the data that shows the number of deaths caused by drivers who are within that 0.05 to 0.08 range?

What is the actual number? How does it compare to drivers that are below 0.05?

The 440,000 number is for "impaired" drivers. At what BA level do they describe as impaired? Is it above 0.08? Is it above 0.05? Is it above 0.01? Is it above 0.05 but below 0.08?

I see nothing in the source article that defines that term, and nothing that can be used to say "People with a BA level above 0.05 and below 0.08 kill X number of people each year in accidents."

Personally, I'm against drunk driving (You'd be nuts not to be.) but I hate not having the data that's driving these decisions. Is there a graph or chart somewhere that can plot fatal accident occurrences over measured BA level?

RE: Where is the data?
By HoosierEngineer5 on 5/15/13, Rating: 0
RE: Where is the data?
By 91TTZ on 5/15/2013 1:18:03 PM , Rating: 4
You didn't address his question in any way. He's not denying that drunk drivers cause that many deaths, he's asking if people in the new proposed range are what's causing them.

It's already illegal to drive with blood alcohol over .08%, but I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of fatalities are caused by people whose blood alcohol is far higher than that.

RE: Where is the data?
By M'n'M on 5/15/2013 2:49:50 PM , Rating: 4
It's already illegal to drive with blood alcohol over .08%, but I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of fatalities are caused by people whose blood alcohol is far higher than that.

You would be correct and the NTSB admits this is so. See my earlier post below. I find this from the study interesting:
The laboratory and driving simulator research described above provides insights into alcohol ’s effects on general performance; however, with respect to safety, studies that consider the relationship between BAC and crash risk can provide useful information to guide policy. One of the earliest and best known studies of the effects of BAC on crash risk was the Borkenstein Grand Rapids study, a case - control study conducted in the early 1960s (Borkenstein and others 1964). The Borkenstein study showed an increased risk of crashes beginning at a BAC of 0.04. At a BAC of 0.08, risk was nearly doubled, and at 0.10, it had increased six fold. The Borkenstein study also found a “dip” in risk at very low BAC levels; 23 however, subsequent replications have indicated that the dip was a statistical anomaly (Hurst , Harte, and Frith 1994, 647 – 54) and that risk increases continuously beginning at a BAC of 0.01. More recent studies have shown that risk is significantly higher when a driver’s BAC is = 0.05, and that crash risk climbs rapidly at BAC levels that exceed 0.08. One study found that the risk of fatal crash involvement at BACs between 0.05 0 and 0.079 ranged from about 3 to 17 times greater, depending on the age of the driver and the type of fatal crash (single - vehicle versus all crashes) ( Zador , Krawchuk, and Voas 2000, 387 – 95 ). Another study found that at a BAC of 0.05, drivers are 1.38 times more likely to be in a crash than are sober drivers. At a BAC of 0.08, crash risk is 2.69 times higher ( Compton and others 2002; Blomberg and others 2005). These elevated risks grow even higher as BACs increase, with the risk of being in a crash rising to nearly 5 times higher by a BAC of 0.10. Figure 4 depicts relative crash risk by BAC level from this study.

So there's wildly varying estimates as to just how impaired people are vs BAC. They've picked 0.05 because it's the lowest point at which some consistent impairment can be found. And their stated goal is zero impairment.

RE: Where is the data?
By RufusM on 5/20/2013 4:26:06 PM , Rating: 2
And their stated goal is zero impairment.

Then they may as well make the DUI BAC .005 and ban all in-vehicle distractions as well: cell phones, car stereos, navigation devices or map reading, eating, passengers talking to drivers, etc. #nannyState

RE: Where is the data?
By BRB29 on 5/15/2013 12:39:44 PM , Rating: 3

That is impossible to do unless unless there's a chip in your blood stream measuring your BAC constantly.

At .08, you are impaired but it's not that significant. They do these crazy tests using a super curvy road course laid out by cones to test people. It's retarded because many drivers have a hard time passing that course sober. Just look at the mythbuster episode about drunk driving.

The whole defensive driving course and stupid shut down ignition systems they do is just a money grab. I don't see how a speech and video would cost over $500. I don't see why it cost thousands of dollars to install a breathalizer in my ignition.

RE: Where is the data?
By BRB29 on 5/15/2013 12:40:43 PM , Rating: 2
I see nothing in the source article that defines that term, and nothing that can be used to say "People with a BA level above 0.05 and below 0.08 kill X number of people each year in accidents."

meant to quote that

RE: Where is the data?
By Strunf on 5/16/2013 8:19:37 AM , Rating: 5
At .08, you are impaired but it's not that significant

The thing is that we aren't all the same, some at 0.08% will already be quite impaired other not so much, but the law has to be the same for everyone so it's better to pick the lower value than the highest one. Also in case of an emergency even a small dose of alcohol will affect your driving skills and since there are millions of cars on the road statistically it means a few dead and many injured.

The alcohol levels don't even bother me, as far as I'm concerned it could be 0.00% when I drink I don't drive when I drive I don't drink, what I don't like nor want is to pay for some new technologies that will forced into every car even if the owner respects the law, it's like forcing everyone to wear a straitjacket just cause some may turn out to be crazy.

RE: Where is the data?
By M'n'M on 5/15/2013 12:53:01 PM , Rating: 3
Some of the data and the studies cited in coming up with the recommendation are in the report:

Summarizing it's seems they expect an ~10% decline in the number of fatal alcohol related accidents. I'd have to spend more time reading the cited studies to assess whether this is more BS or not.

What I do know is every state around here can convict you of a lesser offense at 0.05%, and of DWI at that level, if the arresting officer can show additional evidence of impairment (which should be easy as in most cases it'll be why he stopped you in the 1'st place). So it seems to me that the new limit is more of a public awareness "stick" than anything else. Even the report (pg 24) states:
Although lowering the per se BAC threshold may seem counterintuitive when the majority of alcohol - impaired drivers in fatal crashes have BAC levels well over 0.08, research on the effectiveness of laws limiting BAC levels (Hingson, Heeren, and Winter 1996; Wagenaar and others 2007) has found that lowering the per se BAC limit changes the drink - driving behavior of drivers at all BAC levels. Consequently, reducing the per se BAC limit could reasonably be expected to have a broad deterrent effect, thereby reducing the risk of injuries and fatalities from crashes associated with impaired driving.

Hmmmm ... that also cries for more looking into.

I find it "intriguing" that this comes out at the same time another group is recommending that physicians should "screen" all adults (18+ yrs) for potential alcohol "misuse".

RE: Where is the data?
By Etsp on 5/15/2013 2:12:17 PM , Rating: 2
The psychological effect is something I hadn't considered, but it's not something that can be predicted effectively either, just "estimated". The only way to really know the impact of that aspect would be to implement the law...

Though, given what the BA rules are for most of the rest of the world (0.05 BA), they probably have some applicable data already.

To be clear, I'm not against this proposed change, but I'm not for it either. Not until I hear a sufficient argument for it, or against it, backed by data.

RE: Where is the data?
By M'n'M on 5/15/2013 3:03:20 PM , Rating: 2
The psychological effect is something I hadn't considered, but it's not something that can be predicted effectively either, just "estimated". The only way to really know the impact of that aspect would be to implement the law...

And of course if the change weren't to be of any real safety improvement after enactment, it would be nigh impossible to get the politicians to admit it, let alone repeal it. Just look at the NMSL/55. If it weren't for some large states raising a ruckus over Fed funds being withheld, we'd still have it. In the East, the mixed 55/65 is still in effect despite the fact that raising the speed limit did not lead to thousands and thousands of extra deaths as predicted by the Safety Nazi's of the time.

As for this change ... I'll have to look into it some more to decide on it but it has a whiff of the same stupid "no risk" mentality that seems pervasive these days.

RE: Where is the data?
By vol7ron on 5/19/2013 4:40:22 AM , Rating: 1
The argument against it is there is a political desire to control every aspect of your life, no matter where you live or what you do.

Sure there may be impairments when drinking, but the physiological effects are different, for different people. In fact, I know people that function better when slightly intoxicated then completely sober - humorous, but true.

The truth is Congress and state governments would save more lives and prevent more injuries by having better driving regulations for all license holders - better tests to ensure those that hold licenses meet a certain standard while driving. There are simply too many drivers on the road that are horrible enough sober and these "horrible drivers" probably make up a large percentage of drunk drivers that are involved in accidents. So, if you improve the quality of the average driver on the road, either by better training or tests restricting their access, the DUI statistic will naturally be reduced.

The real statistics aren't in how many dui-related accidents occur, but how many non-dui accidents occur. The point is to save lives. It's nothing more than sensationalism to determine that deaths are a result of the combination of alcohol and driving. The government could save more in less invasive and in a more freedom-abiding manner. So, new BAC limits are complete and utter horse shit.

RE: Where is the data?
By AMDftw on 5/15/2013 12:58:02 PM , Rating: 3
I think they should raise the tobacco and alcohol age. I even the driving age from 16 to 18. If not that, have a permit for 1-2 years instead of 6 months. IMHO

No, I'm not an old man trying on the younger generation. I'm a young adult.

RE: Where is the data?
By FITCamaro on 5/15/2013 1:08:17 PM , Rating: 3
Florida did raise the license age to 17 from 16. I was quite glad. But it really doesn't matter because kids still can't drive and the driving "test" is so easy anyone who can play GTA can pass it.

RE: Where is the data?
By Cheesew1z69 on 5/15/2013 1:50:39 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Where is the data?
By FITCamaro on 5/15/2013 2:10:01 PM , Rating: 2
Actually it looks like they changed it but its still more limited. When I turned 16 you could get your full license. That chart shows that at 16 and 17 you have a restricted license which is probably that you can't drive after a certain time, much like the learners permit but you don't need an adult in the car anymore.

Now it's not until 18 that you have an unrestricted license.

RE: Where is the data?
By FITCamaro on 5/15/2013 2:10:39 PM , Rating: 2
And last I checked, it was at 17 you got your unrestricted license.

PS - Damn no edit button.

RE: Where is the data?
By BRB29 on 5/15/2013 1:14:22 PM , Rating: 4
Are you serious? raising it to what? 25?

Have you even bother to research the age policies of other countries and alcohol related traffic accident rates?
If you did, you would have a different opinion.

RE: Where is the data?
By tayb on 5/15/2013 2:00:28 PM , Rating: 5
A better solution would be decreasing the legal age to buy alcohol to 16 and increasing the legal age to drive to 18. It sounds counter-intuitive but many studies have shown decreasing the legal age to purchase alcohol reduces binge consumption and by consequence drunk driving. Further, embracing alcohol several years before driving allows children to become acquainted with alcohol and the effect on the body and mind before learning how to drive and getting behind the wheel. It would also be nice if we actually had driving courses that taught children how to drive.

Our current laws are completely backward and ineffective.

RE: Where is the data?
By Solandri on 5/15/2013 3:08:33 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say the problem is more one of publicity. According to the CDC, overdrinking causes 80,000 deaths per year.

That makes it twice as big a problem as vehicle accidents (even more if you subtract out alcohol-related vehicle accidents). That would make it the #1 preventable cause of death. I'd been wondering why overdoses were so high on the CDC's fatality rate charts. I had a hard time believing illegal and prescription substance abuse could cause so many deaths. But it all makes sense if that's how you classify deaths caused by getting drunk.

So that's really where the media should be focusing their attention if they truly wanted to serve the public, instead of attention-grabbing things like terrorism, plane crashes, and school shootings. You're actually more likely to be struck by lightning than to be involved with one of those media favorites. And their disproportionate coverage causes us to waste a lot of money combating something that really isn't that big a problem.

RE: Where is the data?
By ven1ger on 5/17/2013 6:21:52 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, that does sound counter-intuitive. I'd think that there could be other adverse consequences at starting drinking at such an early age, other than drunken driving, but I'll leave that to the experts.

Our state require that anyone under the age of 18 requires driver's education with a licensed driving instructor before being allowed to obtain a drivers license. Most of the under 18, usually take driving courses from the high school if it is offered as it generally tends to be a lot less expensive than those offered by private instructors, something like $300 or more.

RE: Where is the data?
By tng on 5/17/2013 4:31:46 PM , Rating: 2
I think they should raise the tobacco and alcohol age.
I find it ironic and sad that in most states that you have to be 18 to buy stop smoking aids. Do or can people under 18 abuse them? I don't know, but if you need the help to stop, you can't get it if you are under 18.

I even the driving age from 16 to 18.
I agree 100% with this. Sometimes I think that it should be 21.

RE: Where is the data?
By borismkv on 5/16/2013 2:50:28 PM , Rating: 2
Who needs data? Alcohol is a waste of money. Stop drinking and never worry about getting a DUI.

RE: Where is the data?
By degobah77 on 5/17/2013 8:00:47 AM , Rating: 2
Who needs life? Breathing is a waste of money. Stop breathing and never worry about living.

RE: Where is the data?
By talikarni on 5/16/2013 3:07:27 PM , Rating: 2
its all about control, not safety. They just use some cherry picked or ambiguous data to support their claims and pass these laws based on emotion rather than facts.

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