America Urged to Cut Limit on Alcohol for Drivers

A debate is raging in The United States about whether or not to lower the legal alcohol limit for drivers following a surge in road deaths caused by drink driving.

According to an article on The New York Times website, thousands of people are killed on American roads each year by car crashes caused by drivers who have been drinking but have not reached the legal alcohol limit. Therefore these drivers are not actually “drink driving” because they are acting within the law, yet lives are still being lost.

The National Transportation Safety Board said that it recommended states reduce the allowance blood-alcohol concentration by more than one third. It is currently 0.08 per cent BAC whereas it has been suggested that the USA drop this to 0.05, this is more in line with standards around the world, including in Oz.

According to the group, the current standard is outdated, it was established over a decade ago and at present around 10,000 fatalities are happening on USA’s roads each year.

Read what the article on went on to discuss about the issue:

15drunk-articleLarge“There are at least 10,000 reasons to tackle this issue,” said Deborah A. P. Hersman, the chairwoman of the board. Foreign countries with stricter standards have had substantially more success, according to the board.

The board voted for a variety of recommendations. Some, like requiring that everyone convicted of drunken driving be required to install a Breathalyzer interlock in their car, which would prevent the vehicle from starting without an alcohol test, were focused on heavy drinkers and repeat offenders.

Officials said they hoped that a stricter standard would reduce drinking and driving both among social drinkers and among heavy drinkers.

Blood-alcohol concentration varies by body weight, gender, stomach contents and other factors, but generally speaking, a 180-pound man could consume four beers or glasses of wine in 90 minutes without reaching the current limit. At a limit of 0.05 percent, he could legally consume only three. A 130-pound woman could probably consume three drinks in 90 minutes and be legal under the existing standard; if the limit were lowered, she could consume only two.

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However not everyone thinks reducing the BAC limit for drivers is such a good idea. Members of the American Beverage Institute have criticised it for failing to address the real problem, drunk drivers not drivers who are responsible by sticking to the limit. The post goes on to explain:

The blood-alcohol recommendation faces opposition. Sarah Longwell, the managing director at the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, called the idea “ludicrous.”

“Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” she said. And “further restriction of moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hard-core drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.”

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But government statistics have apparently been provided which show that people with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent are 38 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than those who have not been drinking while people with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent are 169 percent more likely.

Most American states only switched to a BAC of 0.08 in the year 2000 when Bill Clinton signed a law which withheld highway construction money from states that did not do so but the rest of the world agrees that 0.05 BAC is the acceptable limit and some countries like South Africa are even considering lowering it even further after a number of alcohol induced crashes.