States Urged to Cut Limit on Alcohol for Drivers
It has now been about 30 years since awareness of the EXTREME danger posed by drunk driving truly entered the public consciousness. In 2000, the standard legal limit was reduced from .10 to .08. According to the NTSB, the number of alcohol-related driving fatalities (defined as involving at least one driver with .08 or higher) has remained stubbornly around the 10,000 per year mark, representing over 30% of all road deaths. Yesterday, the NTSB released a report making a number of recommendations.
The recommendations are designed to address both repeat offenders and those never previously found to be driving over the legal limit. The latter, according to the New York Times, make up more than 90 percent of those involved in fatal alcohol-related crashes.
Including among the recommendations is a requirement that anyone convicted of drunk driving install a Breathalyzer in their car, preventing the vehicle from starting without an alcohol test.
More controversial is the recommendation to reduce the legal limit from .08 to .05. The New York Times explains:
Blood-alcohol concentration varies by body weight, gender, stomach contents and other factors, but generally speaking, a 180-pound man could consume four beers or glasses of wine in 90 minutes without reaching the current limit. At a limit of 0.05 percent, he could legally consume only three. A 130-pound woman could probably consume three drinks in 90 minutes and be legal under the existing standard; if the limit were lowered, she could consume only two.
Naturally, alcohol industry groups are already circling the wagons.
Sarah Longwell, the managing director at the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, called the idea “ludicrous.”
“Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” she said. 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.”
The fact is that .05 is the standard in the rest of the world. I personally don’t believe “American exceptionalism” extends to driving under the influence, nor do I see any rights being infringed upon. Everyone will still be free to drink to their heart’s content provided they have a designated driver or call a cab.
Read the NTSB report in full (in pdf form) here.
Read the full New York Times story here.