Panel Recommends Decreasing Legal Blood-Alcohol Concentration

Nearly a decade ago, U.S. Congress prodded states into lowering the acceptable blood-alcohol concentration for drivers to 0.08 percent. Since that time, Missouri has followed along and enforces that limit in drunk driving cases. More recently, however, the National Transportation Safety Board encouraged states to reduce the legal limit even further.

According to the panel, the legal limit should be set at 0.05 percent, which is a significant change from the current laws. This move is being suggested under the premise that it will reduce rates of drunk driving charges. At this point, there is no move from legislators to push this recommendation on the states by tying it to federal funding.

Even though the NTSB believes that this kind of change will promote public safety, others aren’t so sure. One observer notes that the changes would “criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” and would likely do little to change the frequency of driving while intoxicated charges.

One thing that severely complicates any reductions in legal limits is the simple fact that alcohol affects everyone differently. A variety of factors, including weight and gender, determine how blood-alcohol content accumulates. In other words, it could become very difficult for drivers to determine when they are over or near the legally allowable concentration. Some people may not even feel the slightest bit impaired when they hit the 0.05 percent benchmark.

As the NTSB recommendations have more time to gain — or lose — traction, Missouri residents may have to make adjustments to the way they conduct themselves in social situations. For some people, even two drinks over the course of 90 minutes could put them over the legal limit. As such, they could be facing serious legal challenges even after trying to act responsibly.

Source: New York Times, “States Urged to Cut Limit on Alcohol for Drivers,” Matthew L. Wald, May 14, 2013

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