Why This Science Panel Suggests Lowering BAC Limit for Drivers
- February 20, 2018
- Car Accidents
A clinical study published last month recommended lowering the threshold for drunk driving in state laws from .08% to .05% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine stated, could lower the number of drunk driving deaths in the U.S. each year by up to 10%.
Other supporters of lowering the legal limit to 0.05% BAC were pleased with the recommendation, noting that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made the same recommendation in 2013.
The National Academies report determined that there has been a lot of progress in reducing drunk driving deaths. However, there still are more than 10,000 DUI deaths each year in the U.S. Since 1982, 33% of all traffic fatalities were caused by drunk driving. Nearly 40% of all drunk driving fatalities are innocent victims and not the drivers themselves. Further, in 2010, the economic costs of drunk driving crashes were estimated at $121 billion.
How The Panel Reached the 0.05% BAC Recommendation
The study writers contend that the U.S. is one of the few developed nations with the higher BAC standard of 0.08%. Most of the evidence reviewed by the panel determined that 0.05% BAC can lower the number of DUI fatalities by 10% annually. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Tim Naimi, stated: “Most of the evidence is pretty firm that 0.05% saves lives.”
Some of the data reviewed was from the NTSB’s recommendation from 2013. That organization found that fatal crashes in two Australian states decreased by 18% and 8% respectively after those areas had lowered the standard to 0.05%.
The study also determined that there is an increased risk of accident when the BAC is only 0.02%, and when the drinker gets to 0.05%, the odds of a crash have risen dramatically. Other studies have shown that almost all drivers lose some degree of driving ability at .05%. Further, if there is an accident, the chances of being killed increased at .05% BAC.
Advocates for public safety hope that U.S. states will begin to lower their legal drinking limits to 0.05% BAC in the next few years. A bill has been introduced in the New York state legislature that would do just that. Once some states begin to lower the limit and there is a reduction of DUI deaths, safety advocates hope that other states will change their laws, too.
Other Recommendations to Reduce DUI Fatalities
The report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine also recommended these changes to reduce drunk driving deaths:
- Increasing taxes on alcohol
- Changing laws to prevent illegal alcohol sales to those under 21
- Requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers
- Better alcohol treatment programs.
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