National Transportation Safety Board Recommends a move from 0.08 to 0.05 BAC laws in the U.S.

On May 14, 2013 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the United States released a report titled, “Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving.”

 The National Transportation Safety Board is a legislatively mandated independent federal agency that is charged with, among other things, making recommendations related to transportation safety.  The NTSB report is substantial and it notes that alcohol-impaired driving remains a major safety issue in the United States with close to one-third of all highway fatalities associated with alcohol.  The report makes a number of recommendations to U.S. states that include the following taken directly from the report.

  • Reduce the per se blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for all drivers,
  • Conduct high-visibility enforcement of impaired driving laws and incorporating passive alcohol sensing technology into enforcement efforts,
  • Expand the use of in-vehicle devices to prevent operation by an impaired driver,
  • Use driving while intoxicated (DWI) courts and other programs to reduce recidivism by repeat DWI offenders, and
  • Establish measurable goals for reducing impaired driving and tracking progress toward those goals.

The recommendation that seems to have already garnered the most attention is the recommendation to lower state blood alcohol concentration limits to 0.05g/dl.

The current standard that exists in all U.S. states is 0.08g/dl while most developed countries have a 0.05g/dl standard.  Not surprisingly, there appears to be strong resistance to the 0.05g/dl BAC recommendation from the beverage industry.  A representative from the American Beverage Institute was quoted in the following article as saying, “Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior” and “further restriction of moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hard-core drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.”

And a representative from the Beer Institute was quoted as saying, “…we strongly encourage policymakers to direct their efforts where we know we can get results: by focusing on repeat offenders and increasing penalties on those with BAC of (0.15) or more.”

Scientific research on the topic summarized in the NTSB report however, clearly supports the assertion that moving to a 0.05g/dl BAC standard would save additional lives.

It will be interesting to see how responsive the states are to the NTSB’s recommendations.  In an effort to help motivate the states, the NTSB also recommends that some type of incentive grants be offered to states if they adopt the best practice recommendations including the 0.05 g/dl BAC standard.





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