NTSB recommends to lower legal blood alcohol content limit from .08 to .05

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The National Transportation Safety board said it's recommending lowering the legal blood alcohol limit on the roads from .08 to .05.

The NTSB reports nearly half of deadly crashes would go down if the country cut the alcohol legal limit. It is one of the government agency’s top issues it is focusing on in 2016.

NTSB came out with its “Most Wanted” list, which is a policy list where the agency explains its recommendations. The mission is to cut down on deadly crashes but not everyone thinks lowering the limit is a good idea.

“If the level were to change I don't think our focus or our mission would change at all,” said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Christian Newlin.

Newlin is the breath alcohol supervisor and has been trained to know the signs of impairment.

“Swaying back and forth, slurred speech,” Newlin said. “So you start to see physical indicators at the .08. The .05 is based on very rigorous research that points to when mental impairment starts. The ability to multitask, reaction time.”

The NTSB said other countries like Australia have a .05 legal limit. Not only has it reduced crashes, but the overall average blood alcohol content for drivers has dropped.

The agency states, "... Impairment starts before a person hits the .08 level. And by the time it reaches that level, the risk if a deadly crash is more than doubled."

Derek Monson, policy director with Utah nonprofit think tank Sutherland Institute, agrees with the NTSB’s recommendation.

“I think what that issue is really about is protecting innocent people from those who drive impaired by alcohol,” said Monson.  “Research shows that virtually everybody's who hits the .05 alcohol level has some level of driving impairment.”

While Monson supports lowering the limit, the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving is against it.

“It did surprise me when I initially found that out,” Monson said.

MADD released the following statement:

"Through the (MADD's) campaign's three elements of sobriety checkpoints, high visibility enforcement, and state ignition interlock laws for all offenders... the campaign is leading the nation toward the elimination of drunk driving... when fully implemented (the campaign) is projected to save approximately 7,000 lives a year, far more than the project benefits of a lower BAC standard."

The NTSB knows its fight to lower the limit won't happen overnight. But it did say instead of giving an impaired person a DUI at .05, maybe the penalty could be lesser, for example, a driver’s license suspension.

9 comments

  • George Chapman

    MADD is against lowering to .05 because national restaurant chains support MADD. I tried to discuss this with Utah MADD president who happened to work for Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (3rd floor Senate bldg). I also asked Gordon at CCJJ and they didn’t seem interested. For several years, I have been trying to get zion curtain removed in return for lowering DUI limit. You can put more pressure on the issue.

  • adventuresofanaussieragdoll

    Australia has had a 0.05 clood alcohol limit (0.02 for provisional drivers) for about 30 years. It works well. We also have Random Breath Testing (RBT) for alcohol. They are known coloqually as Booze Buses. You never know when you may come across a Booze Bus & require to be tested.

  • Mike Travis

    I totally understand the serious problem of drinking and driving however, when are going to start making a strong effort to reduce the biggest cause of accidents, distracted driving. I think we would find a bigger reduction in accidents if they disabled phones while the car was in motion. Also put the pressure on places that sell alcohol to police the amount of drinks of their patrons.

  • Whoopie-Doo

    Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s) are validated for .08 BrAC. If the NTSB wants to lower the per se limit to .05, then states would need to jump on board and say no tests are needed. If the officer detects an odor of an alcoholic beverage that is cause enough to have the driver blow into a certified portable breath tester (PBT). Refusal to blow could not be allowed. If it is over a .05 BrAC, then off to jail you go.

  • bob

    The same standard should apply to drivers as pilots. Especially considering you’re a million times more likely to die on the road as in the air.

    The standard for ALL pilots, commercial, private or military, is ZERO blood alcohol, and ZERO alcohol consumption before becoming a member of a “flight crew.” It’s illegal to sit at a desk and write up a flight plan if you have any detectable alcohol in your blood.

    The only problem is that we already don’t enforce the rule we’ve got. We don’t take it seriously until somebody gets killed. Yet it is the drunk driving that is the actual crime. Accidentally killing someone is a side-effect. ALL drunk drivers should be treated as if they killed someone. It should be a felony. First time, every time.

    • bob

      Clarification: The pilot standard is 0.0% BAC and no consumption for at least 24 hours prior to becoming a member of a flight crew…..and you become a member of a flight crew the moment you step into the FBO at the airport, even if you’re hours from actually sitting in the pilot’s seat. ZERO tolerance. Instant loss of license for any violation. And it’s a felony.

      Pilots seem to be able to live with it. They just choose carefully when they drink. How hard is it? If you can’t choose between drinking and driving you’re an alcoholic.

      • Corey

        For a private pilot you can’t drink 8 hours prior to a flight and have a BAC higher than .04. I have my private pilots license

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