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Proposal To Reduce Legal Driving Limit To 0.05% BAC Attracts Wide-Ranging Opposition

May 16, 2013

The National Transportation Safety Board’s proposal for the legal limit for a driver’s blood-alcohol content to be reduced to 0.05% has attracted a torrent of criticism—both from likely and unlikely sources. Among those who have come out against the NTSB proposal are hospitality groups like the National Restaurant Association and the American Beverage Institute, both of whom claim that efforts against drunk driving should focus on chronic offenders with higher blood alcohol levels. But, in a surprising turn, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has also come out against the measure, saying it would likely take years to implement and that the reduction from the current 0.08% BAC threshold to 0.05% wouldn’t be as effective as the further use of technologies like the ignition interlock, a breathalyzer-like device installed on a car’s dashboard that requires drivers to prove their sobriety before allowing the vehicle to start.

For its part, the NTSB says that a driver with a BAC of 0.05% is 38% more likely to be in a crash as compared with a driver who hasn’t consumed any alcohol. By comparison, the safety board says a driver with a level of 0.08% is 169% more likely to be involved in a car accident than a completely sober driver. The NTSB also says that reducing the legal limit to 0.05% would put the U.S. on par with the global consensus on drunk driving, maintaining that more than 100 countries already have limits at or below 0.05%, including 25 of the 27 E.U. members. The NTSB can’t make law, but instead makes recommendations to both the federal and state governments. This recommendation will surely evoke further opposition from the hospitality industry, both at the local and national level.

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