Federal safety regulators proposed Tuesday that the legal limit for drivers’ blood-alcohol content be lowered from 0.08% to at least 0.05%.
Drunk driving is a national problem that accounts for one-third of all traffic deaths, The Times Richard Simon reported. The National Transportation Safety Board also called for government incentives to prod states into lowering their drunk-driving standard.
The recommendation comes on the 25th anniversary of the nation's worst drunk-driving crash in which an intoxicated driver killed 24 teenagers and three adults on a school bus and injured 34 near Carrollton, Ky.,
While total traffic fatalities have fallen, nearly 1 in 3 highway deaths still involves an alcohol-impaired driver, according to NTSB. There were 9,978 deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers in 2011.
"Many people believe that if a driver’s BAC is under the legal limit of 0.08%, the driver is safe to drive," according to an NTSB report. "In reality, by the time a driver’s BAC reaches 0.08%, his or her fatal crash risk has at least doubled, and some studies indicate it may be many times higher."
The NTSB recommendation drew opposition from the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, which said it would target moderate drinkers instead of dangerous drunk drivers.
“Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hard-core drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel," said Sarah Longwell, the group’s managing director. "It would simply divert valuable public resources that should be used to pursue the most dangerous offenders and instead use them to target drivers engaging in perfectly safe behavior."
Thirteen years ago, President Clinton signed legislation requiring states to set a .08% blood alcohol-level or lose millions of dollars in federal funding.
Should the legal limit be lowered or should other steps be taken to decrease drunk driving-related deaths? Let us know in the comments section or by tweeting @LANow.