Redefining Drunk Driving Accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board released its Most Wanted List of safety initiatives for 2016. Included on the list was the goal to end substance impairment in transportation. The NTSB is not limiting that goal to drivers whose blood alcohol level is above .08. The safety group is encouraging government officials to move the legal limit to .05. This is not the first time the NTSB has pushed for a lower BAC limit for impaired driving. The NTSB does not have any legislative authority to require a change, but its recommendations have inspired amended laws in the past.

Depending on whom you ask, the change from .08 to .05 might make little difference. The statutes that define impaired driving use .08 as a definitive line, above which you are considered impaired. That said, they also allow for a finding of impaired driving below the .08 line. If your driving indicates an impairment and you test positive for alcohol, you can be convicted of drunk driving even if you test below .08 BAC.

The NTSB is right to focus on impaired driving. Approximately one-third of all fatal car accidents involve a drunk driver. That means more than 10,000 people die in car accidents in this country every year because of drivers who have had too much to drink. The toll these accidents take on individuals, families and the nation as a whole is staggering. Alcohol and drugs are not conducive to safe driving.

Whether a lower BAC limit would actually reduce traffic fatalities and make our roads safer is debatable. If it helps people realize than any amount of alcohol is an unsafe amount when driving, it could finally help to solve a problem safety experts have been discussing for decades.

Source: NTSB, “End Substance Impairment in Transportation,” January 2016

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