NTSB Proposal for Lower BAC Limit Failing to Win Support

Earlier this spring the National Transportation Safety Board — the independent federal agency tasked with performing “special studies concerning transportation safety” — issued a rather interesting recommendation that would drastically alter the legal landscape as it relates to drunk driving charges.

The NTSB recommended that all 50 states lower their legal blood alcohol content limits from .08 to .05. The primary justification for such a move, said the agency, was that it would help reduce the number of alcohol-related fatalities on U.S. roads.

In support of their recommendation, the NTSB pointed out that over 100 countries currently have a .05 alcohol standard in place and almost all of them have seen an appreciable decline in their auto fatality rates.

Not surprisingly, the suggestion for a lower drunk driving threshold was not met with great enthusiasm by the 50 states — which would prefer to focus on prosecuting repeat DWI offenders or those with extreme BACs — or the hospitality industry — which saw it as overtly hostile to business interests.

In recent developments, it now appears that the NTSB’s recommendation is lacking the support of a key ally — the Department of Transportation.

At an event held yesterday to announce the DOT’s sponsorship of the annual Labor Day drunk driving crackdown, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx indicated in no uncertain terms that the crusade for a .05 alcohol standard won’t begin at the federal level.

“To the extent that states adopt measures to lower the limit, that would give us the basis to study the data and to understand the impacts nationwide,” he said.

Interestingly, safety advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have not expressed overwhelming support for the NTSB recommendation either. This is more than likely attributable to the fact that the previous fight to lower the blood alcohol content to .08 spanned just over two decades.

It is worth noting that to date only South Carolina, Washington and New York have even broached the topic of lowering their blood alcohol limit to .05

What are your thoughts on lowering the legal alcohol threshold? Is it something Missouri should consider or should state law remain unchanged?

Source: Politico, “Anthony Foxx, MADD lukewarm about lower blood-alcohol limit,” Kevin Robillard, August 22, 2013; ABC News, ” Feds recommend tougher drunken driving threshold,” May 14, 2013

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