Charleston, SC- Over one-third of all traffic fatalities are caused by intoxicated drivers. This is such an alarming statistic that the National Traffic Safety Board believes that lowering the legal blood alcohol limit is a way to combat this problem.
Currently, the legal limit nationwide is .08 percent, but the NTSB has issued a recommendation that the legal limit be lowered to .05 percent.
“This is critical because impaired driving remains one of the biggest killers in the United States,” said Deborah Hersman, the NTSB chairman said, according to USA Today. “To make a bold difference will require bold action. But it can be done.”
The U.S. has been fallen behind the majorities of 100 other countries which lowered the legal limit to .05. According to the NTSB, lowering the limit to .05 percent will save an estimated 500 lives each year.
The NTSB said that even low blood alcohol levels can be dangerous. According to the board, drivers with BAC of .01 displayed attention problems and lane deviations in driving simulators. Additionally, at 0.02, drivers exhibit drowsiness, and at 0.04, drivers were much less aware and alert.
“In the last 30 years, more than 440,000 people have perished in this country due to alcohol-impaired driving. What will be our legacy 30 years from now?” Hersman asked during the Tuesday press conference, CNN reported. “If we don’t tackle alcohol-impaired driving now, when will we find the will to do so?”
Lowering the legal limit is just one among several other recommendations by the NTSB which are outlined in a report entitled, “Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving.”
Their other recommendations include requiring ignition interlock devices—equipment that prevents a car from starting if a driver is drunk– for first offenders and enhanced DUI patrols. The board also recommended that states expand law enforcement’s ability to confiscate the license of drivers, who exceed the legal limit, along with creating even more courts to deal with drunk driving cases.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association and MADD both support the idea of lowering the legal limit, but they also believe it may be a somewhat impossible task and are pushing for ignition interlock devices and enhanced patrols.
“When the limit was .10, it was very difficult to get it lowered to .08,” said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the governors group told USA Today. “We don’t expect any state to go to .05.”
Not surprisingly, the American Beverage Institute, which represents thousands of restaurants nationwide, was critical of lowering the blood alcohol limit, noting that the average woman reaches a .05 BAC with just one drink. They also pointed out that 70 percent of alcohol-related fatalities were caused by drivers with a BAC of .15 or above.
“This recommendation is ludicrous,” Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, said in a statement to CNN. “Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior.”
The NTSB cannot actually change laws, but they have significant influence over state lawmakers who can introduce drunk driving legislation.