U.S. Federal Traffic Board Wants to Make Drunk Driving Threshold Far Harsher
May 15, 2013 11:32 AM
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
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
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
. 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,
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 [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.
Police are increasing using passive sensors to catch drunk drivers. [Image Source: CNN]
At the same time some cases have
challenged the accuracy/validity
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
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