NTSB recommends lowering the legal blood alcohol limit

In the USA, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended* that states lower the DUI limit from 0.08% to 0.05%.

While 31% of all fatal accidents are attributed to alcohol impairment, it doesn’t break down the blood alcohol levels involved in those were above 0.05 but below 0.08. I did find some other quotes related to the difference, though:

*169 percent number was reported in the NY Times. In another article I saw this as 100%.

Can we get to zero fatalities from drunk driving? Other countries are already at 0.05%, but they also seem to have many more alternatives for transportation.

If those thresholds estimates are correct - 4 beers in less than 90 minutes and still not reach 0.08 - then I agree with raising it. Because there is no way in hell I should be driving after drinking that much alcohol in that short a time period. Even three beers in an hour and a half is pushing it with regards to my ability to drive (although I would never drive after having anything more than one beer).

In the end this thresholds are a shortcut for answering the real question - are you too impaired to be driving. Since that is so subjective I think stiff empirical limits should be enforced too.

I think another, perhaps more important, aspect is the relatively leniency of the punishment for DUI in many jurisdictions.

The problem drunk drivers (causing accidents) are much more often shitfaced than hovering around .08. All this new law would do is inconvenience people who where, statistically, fine and less problem causing in the first place.

The real debate should be on automakers being required to install breathalyzer ignitions. The tech is there, and there could be a one-time dealer resettable emergency override.

I thought the point of lowering is that the statement you made is wrong. I’m not going to bring up my feelings on it one way or the other, but what they’re saying is ‘buzzed driving is as bad as drunk driving’.

Because too many people manage to escape during cold and flu season…

I don’t like laws when I have no reasonable way of knowing whether I am violating the law. Especially when violation has severe consequences.

I’ve never taken a breathalyzer test. I probably never will, unless I’m arrested. I have no idea what 0.05 feels like. I’ve never yet read any two of these “X drinks in Y hours for a Z-pound person” that agree with each other, and they always include disclaimers like “it varies with body chemistry, how much you’ve eaten, and a million other things”. So how can I know?

If reliable breathalyzers were publicly available, either in bars or cars, I might support this. Until then, I can’t. It would be like enforcing speed laws if cars didn’t have speedometers.

Depends on the beer…I’d be comfortable having 4 12 oz. light beers in 90 minutes, which would keep me under the current legal limit.

I’ve had to cut myself off after two pints of stronger beer, though, because I had to drive.

A bar in the town where I went to college put in a breathalyzer, I think with the good intention of keeping people from driving over the limit.

It was very quickly taken over by people having contests to see who could get the highest BAC the fastest. I may or may not have participated in such contests. It was promptly removed.

YMMV in a non-college town.

Still, Freddy’s point is excellent. You don’t know when you’ve hit .05. It’s very much like having a speed limit and no speedometer.

Did the people participating in contests to get legally drunk go drive right after? Or were they just getting back to dorms on foot?

Unlike speed limits, most people aren’t going to berate you for driving while well under the 0.05 limit.

And a responsible adult in modern US society should be able to approximate “too much” or “well under” anyway. And if you’re close but unsure if you’re just over, you should probably play it safe and not drive for a while, anyway.

Every device ever built will at some point or another fail to work. An ignition interlock can have two options when it fails:

1.) The interlock simply ceases to work, allowing the car to be started and driven. Of course that’s a loophole big enough for a drunk driver to drive a car through and into the side of a bus full of orphans and nuns.

2.) The interlock ceases to work, preventing the car from being started. In which case, you are saying I should have a gadget on my car which provides zero benefit to me or to society at large–I have never in my entire life driven a single block while drunk, buzzed, or even a teensy bit impaired; if I have a drink, that basically means I’m in for the night–and which could at any time fail and cause my car to stop working, presumably when I’m either running late for work or I’m trying to escape from some guy wearing a hockey mask and carrying a machete.

Requiring such a device to be installed as a condition of probation, as part of allowing someone with a DUI convinction to get their license back, is one thing. Not on my car, though.

To me, saying someone with a BAC of .08% is 100-200% more likely to be in a crash seems like evidence that we don’t need to lower the legal limit. Lets say the average driver has one crash every 70,000 miles driven stone-cold sober (I’m using myself as an average driver, I estimate I’ve driven ~140,000 miles and I’ve been in 2 fender-benders, both with a BAC of zero). By their figures someone right at the legal limit would expect to be in a crash about every 26,000 miles on average (2 crashes*1.68=3.36 extra crashes in 140,000 miles. 2+3.36=5.36, 140,000/5.36= 26,119 miles per crash). These are back-of-the-envelope calculations, but should be in the ballpark. I consider a BAC below which I could expect to drive around the equator without crashing to be a pretty reasonable compromise between living in a society that allows drinking and not wanting to get plowed into by a drunk driver.

In Australia we have had 0.05% BAC for years and it seems to work fine for most people. We just don’t really drink when we drive as a rule. Maybe two or three pots of beer or a few light alcohol beers and that’s about it.

Not sure if it works but in Victoria we do have one of the lowest death rates on the road.

A friend of mine who is a state trooper once brought his field breathalyzer with him to a party and gave out readings for fun. I had 3 readings done. The first was after a few hours of casually drinking beer while eating crabs. I was just barely past the point where I would considered driving - if I had been at happy hour, I would probably get a ride with someone else just to be safe, or walk home. I blew a .040.

At that point the party got moving and about an hour later I had another reading. By now I was at the point where I was solidly drunk - loud voice, laughing at stupid shit, wanting to dance. I blew a .081. I told him I could hardly believe I was within .002 of being legal to drive, and he said to just give it a few minutes. 30 minutes and less than one drink later I was at .16.

It really made me realize just how damn near impossible it is to accurately judge your BAC. My friend said that he personally considered the standard sobriety test (follow my pen, close your eyes and touch your nose, etc) to be more useful because it actually measured your physiological response to alcohol - for some people, .08 is nothing, while others will be absolutely hammered at .07.

I realize the thread is about legal BAC limits, but just wanted to point out that most DWI laws state you’re in violation if:

  1. Physically impaired.
  2. Mentally impaired
  3. BAC over .08
    So if you’re “drunk” and have a BAC of .07 you can still be convicted of a DWI.

I disagree. This is one area where I think the police should have more power: If you are driving recklessly, dangerously or stupidly, police should be able to issue a ticket. Regardless of BAC.

0.08% indicates lower impairment than say, eating in the car, talking on the phone, or driving tired. We need to stop pretending we have a magic ruler that measures driving impairment. We don’t. We need to stop and ticket distracted, tired, impaired, reckless or simply bad drivers, regardless of how they got that way, and leave everyone else alone.

It’s kind of like drug testing at work. If I’m performing unsatisfactorily at work, they should fire me, whether I do drugs or not. And if my work acceptable or exemplary, it shouldn’t matter whether I’m high on meth right this minute. Well I feel the same thing goes for driving, with people dedicated to policing traffic taking the place of my boss.

I agree with lowering the legal limit. Most responsible adults (as in, non-alcoholics) tend to overestimate their BAC. Lowering the limit to .05 would bring us in line with other first-world countries. And if you “need” to drink to socialize, just stay a little longer or drink a little less.

However, I disagree with mandatory car-breathalyzers for the general population. I can’t see them catching on. I believe necessity is a defense for DUI in some jurisdictions (IANAL). What about an adult who needs to drive their child to the hospital after drinking a few beers? Or a woman who needs to get away from an attempted date-rapist after having a few drinks at a party? IMO, the potential for harm (and expensive lawsuits) is too great.

I don’t think those estimates are correct. I think they overstate the amount of alcohol a person could consume before reaching .08

I do not support lowering the limit to .05

In my experience, “DUI Enforcement” is often used as a cash cow by various law enforcement entities. They get grants to fund enforcement, and they also get incentives for arrests, sometimes even a portion of the fines collected. This leads to questionable stops, arrests, and convictions.

Mounting a serious DUI defense is expensive…but if you half-ass it, you’re pretty much wasting money. In my state, a lot of DUIs are tried in lower courts…some of which do not even require the “judge” to be a licensed attorney. Defense motions are routinely denied in such courts, regardless of merit. The defendant has a right to appeal for a trial de novo in a higher court, where the chances of a motion to dismiss for want of probable cause for the stop are somewhat better. Failing that, you’ve pretty much got to have an expert witness to challenge the breath or blood test results. Experts are not cheap. Top notch DUI defense lawyers are not cheap, either. A defendant is looking at several thousand dollars to contest a DUI, on top of the fines, license suspension, fees for alcohol safety classes, fees for victim impact panels, court costs, etc.

Currently, in my state, prosecutors are not allowed to reduce a DUI charge to reckless driving or any other lesser charge. A second offense within 5 years carries mandatory jail time. A third offense within 5 years is a felony.

Trust me, you know not of which you speak.
These units have been know to fail. Often.
Picture the ewwww factor (from both sides of the equation) when you valet park, go for an oil change, car wash, or loan you car to a friend. Talk about kissing by proxy.
There is no way to prove that the blower is the driver. Get a sober friend to blow and drive away drunk.
This is a dumb idea.

Can’t they already do this?