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Study questions wisdom of lowering DUI blood alcohol limits

Several months ago, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that states lower the blood alcohol limit (BAC) at which motorists can legally operate their vehicles. The NTSB hopes that by lowering the legal BAC fewer motorists will engage in driving under the influence (DUI). However, significant opposition to this proposal has begun to emerge. Some of this opposition has surfaced in interesting places.

For example, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) does not support lowering the legal blood alcohol limit from 0.08 to 0.05. Even though the organization insists that motorists should not get behind the wheel if they have been drinking, it does not support holding drivers accountable for a BAC that is this low. The NTSB insists that lowering the BAC limit could save between 500 and 800 American lives per year. Why oppose a measure that could potentially save lives?

Various opponents of the measure argue that because drivers are not impaired at the BAC level of 0.05 that society would be punishing individuals who have done nothing to put others in harm’s way. Federal and state regulators have already determined that a BAC of 0.08 or higher risks impairment. Lowering the limit to target unimpaired drivers makes no sense.

An expert working out of the National Advanced Driving Simulator in Iowa is currently studying the premise that lowering the legal BAC limit would save lives. His conclusions, which will hopefully be released in part within the next month or so, should help to inform this debate.

Source: ABA Journal, "Should drunken-driving limit be lowered to .05? Researcher uses simulator to gather data," Debra Cassens Weiss, Sept. 4, 2013

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