You may have heard of the recent recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to lower the standard for drunk driving. Among other suggestions, the NTSB believes that a person should be declared legally intoxicated at .05 percent BAC, a decrease from the current .08 percent BAC. Opinions vary, but Koffel Brininger Nesbitt supports this move.
“I do believe lowering the limit to 0.05% will go much further in reducing DUI fatalities and injuries than any law change to date,” stated
Brad Koffel. “The public would be shocked to learn just how much our clients drank prior to getting charged with a DUI to hit the current level.”
According to the NTSB, there are approximately 10,000 deaths per year due to drunk/impaired driving. This is just one among many statistics the organization uses to substantiate its recent recommendations. To understand this proposed change to DUI law better, it is important to understand the history of our national BAC limit.
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In 2000, a federal law was passed to implement a nationwide .08 percent BAC. As an incentive to comply, each state would continue to receive federal highway money. The government would withhold these funds from states that did not comply. There can be little doubt that this new law significantly reduced the amount of annual of drunk driving collisions. In 1982, there were approximately 21,000 drunk driving accident deaths per year, while the most current statistics place this number at 10,000.
It may be easy to praise this .08 percent BAC limit when considering the fact that drunk driving deaths have more than been cut in half over the past 30 years; we must also consider that there are still 10,000 lives being lost because of drunk driving every year. The NTSB believes that reducing the BAC can save lives. The recent recommendations are part of the organization’s “Reaching Zero” campaign to completely eliminate drunk driving in the United States.
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It is shocking to consider how many drinks a person can have while still being able to drive legally. According to current BAC calculators, a 180-pound man can drink four alcoholic beverages each 60-90 minutes and may still be under the legal intoxication limit. Lowering the BAC limits would allow that same 180-pound man to drink only two or three alcoholic beverages before being considered legally intoxicated. It is also important to note that alcohol affects each individual differently. Factors such as height, weight and gender all play a role in determining how many drinks a person can have and still be legally sober enough to drive.
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Even DUI defense law firms are split on this issue. Some advocate that the permitted BAC is not the issue by pointing out that most drunk driving fatalities are caused by higher-intoxication drivers, not those with a BAC near .08 percent. As a DUI defense law firm, Koffel Brininger Nesbitt has an intimate knowledge of this issue. While the majority of DUI accident deaths result from drivers well over the .08 percent limit, this should not be a reason to avoid lowering the BAC to .05 percent.
States should be taking steps to get extremely intoxicated drivers off of the road, but it should also be noted that even one or two drinks can significantly alter a person’s cognizance. More and more studies are revealing that .05 percent BAC is the limit at which the risk of crash significantly spikes. Many countries have already implemented a .05 percent BAC. It is Koffel Brininger Nesbitt’s belief that the United States should join them.