Drunk driving laws could be changing: The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that states make it illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol content above .05. Right now the limit is .08.
Because opinions are so polarized on this issue, I’ve been hesitant to wade into this debate. As my fiancé was killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver in the 70’s, and I once had a job where I had to deal with the immediate results of accidents, I have strong feelings about the matter.
Over 100 countries already have blood alcohol limits of .05 or lower – the USA is lagging behind in updating our laws. Here is a look at BAC limits world-wide:
On the other hand, I can’t help but think about the impact such changes will have on the restaurant and bar industry. Not only would restaurants be affected, but the change would also trickle down to lower wages for restaurant staff – remember that tips are based on the total bill, of which alcohol pays a large part, but also liquor suppliers, as they could potentially have lower sales.
Today, investigators cited research that showed that although impairment begins with the first drink, by 0.05 BAC, most drivers experience a decline in both cognitive and visual functions, which significantly increases the risk of a serious crash. Currently, over 100 countries on six continents have BAC limits set at 0.05 or lower. The NTSB has asked all 50 states to do the same.
The research shows that drivers with a 0.05 percent or higher blood alcohol content are at significantly greater risk of being involved in a fatal crash. One study found that crash risk was 38 percent greater at 0.05 than at 0 percent and that when a driver’s blood alcohol content reaches 0.07, crash risk is doubled.
According to alcohol impairment charts, both males and females who weigh 140 to 160 pounds are at .05 after just two drinks – defined as 1.5 oz. of liquor (and most bars pour more than that), 12 oz. of beer or 5 .oz of table wine. True, the BAC goes down as you linger over dinner, but you would still run a significant risk of being over the limit.
You can’t help but think that many restaurant patrons are going to think twice before ordering a full bottle of wine, or even a couple of cocktails.
This potential change doesn’t even address the problem of drivers using electronic mobile devices, which many studies have shown equal or even exceed the risk of driving while intoxicated, though some states are raising the fines substantially – in Alaska, texting while driving could result in a $10,000 fine and a year in prison. Last I heard, a bill in the California legislature would raise penalties to $1,200 for the first infraction.
As you can tell, I have very mixed feelings on this proposal. A change in the BAC will clearly affect the income of many people, but has the potential of lowering needless deaths on our highways. I’m curious to know – what do you think? Feel free to comment below.