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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 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.

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