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Safety board recommends lowering legal limit to reduce alcohol-related car accident fatalities

Author: Michael Pines
Published: Jul 10 2013

It goes without saying that drunk driving is irresponsible and dangerous. Driving under the influence of alcohol has led to countless fatalities in the United States, and continues to be one of the leading causes of car accidents in our country. And despite public awareness campaigns that aim to educate the public about the dangers of drunk driving, many drivers still make the choice to drive while intoxicated.

In response to the continued fatalities that occur in our country as a result of drunk driving, the federal government has proposed intervention by tightening laws surrounding the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels.

Currently, the United States observes a legal limit of 0.08 BAC. But last month, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended lowering the legal limit to 0.05 BAC across all 50 states.

"Most Americans think that we've solved the problem of impaired driving, but in fact, it's still a national epidemic," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said.

The truth is that alcohol-related car accident fatalities remain an issue in the United States despite continued education and prevention methods. In the last 30 years, more than 44,000 Americans have lost their lives as a result of drunken driving according to the NTSB.


If the NTSB is successful in its recommendation, all states may be required to impose a new legal BAC limit of 0.05. What does that mean for drivers?

Ordinarily, a 180-pound male can drink about four drinks over the course of an hour before hitting the 0.08 mark. However, with lowered limits, that same male may reach the 0.05 threshold in just two to three drinks during that same hour. The logic behind a lower limit is to reduce the number of drunken drivers who get behind the wheel, even those who mistakenly feel they are safe to do so.

Of course, there are many factors when it comes to how alcohol is absorbed in the body. For instance, weight, food and gender can all play a role in alcohol absorbtion.

The recommendation to lower the legal limits of drunken driving remains just that – a recommendation. The NTSB is unable to implement such actions across federal law; it only has the clout to make the recommendation to agencies and legislatures including Congress.

"I think .05 is going to come. How long it takes to get there, we don't know. But it will happen," said the NTSB's Robert Molloy, who helped guide the staff report.


Until our country passes stricter drinking laws, you can stay safe and sober behind the wheel by observing the following tips:

Prepay your taxi ride home. When we’ve consumed alcohol, we often make choices we ordinarily would avoid if sober. So don’t take the chance – buy your taxi ride home ahead of time so you don’t risk making a bad judgment call.

Be a responsible host. Cut off alcohol an hour before guests are expected to leave and serve virgin beverages including sodas and water. Always offer plenty of filling appetizers to buffer the effects of alcohol absorption within the body.

Take keys away if necessary. Don’t let your friends drive while under the influence no matter how much they protest. Hide keys if necessary and offer to buy them a cab ride home instead.

Call 9-11 if you spot a drunk driver. Don’t hesitate to call the police if you suspect a driver is under the influence. You may save a life.

About Michael Pines

Michael Pines is a personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Michael Pines, APC in San Diego, California. He is an accident and injury prevention expert, on a campaign to end senseless injury one article at a time. Catch Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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