How Much Alcohol Is Too Much For Safe Driving?

At present, every state in the nation counts a blood alcohol rate above .08 as illegally impaired. Some states have additional laws with a zero alcohol tolerance level for underage drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the year 2000 saw an estimated 69,400 crashes caused by drivers with blood alcohol levels above 0, but below .08. In that year, alcohol related crashes claimed an estimated 16,792 lives and led to 513,000 injuries.

In an effort to reduce the damage caused by drivers with alcohol in their systems, the National Transportation Safety Board is now recommending that the legal limit of alcohol in the bloodstream be reduced to .05. The NTSB has stated a goal of reducing the roughly 10,000 car accident fatalities that happen every year as the result of alcohol impaired driving. An NTSB representative pointed out that many industrialized countries around the world have already gone to lower levels of BAC when setting drunk driving laws.

The NTSB is seeking an increase in the penalties for both first-time and repeat offenders of DUI laws, in addition to the lowering of the legal BAC limit. Not everyone is in favor of the latest proposal, however. The American Beverage Institute estimates that a single alcoholic beverage would put the average woman at the .05 limit. A representative of the group pointed out that less than one percent of the traffic fatalities in 2011 were caused by drivers with a BAC between .05 and .08.

Source: ABC News, “NTSB Wants to Toughen Alcohol Limits for Drivers,” by David Kerley, 14 May 2013

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