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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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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.

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