Is the .08 BAC Limit Too High? A New Report Says Yes.

Categories: Vehicle Accidents

A study published last month in Washington, D.C., recommended lowering state laws that criminalize alcohol-impaired driving from 0.08 to 0.05% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), among other recommendations that would attempt to reduce the number of drunk-driving deaths annually across the United States.

Supporters of lowering the legal limit cheered the recommendation, noting that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that change five years ago.

The report, issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, found that while progress has been made in reducing drunk-driving injuries and deaths, more than 10,000 fatalities from alcohol-impaired driving still occur each year. Since 1982, the study found, one-third of all traffic deaths were due to drunk driving, and almost 40% of all drunk-driving deaths are victims other than the intoxicated driver. In 2010, the economic cost of these crashes was $121 billion, which included medical costs, productivity losses, lost earnings, vehicle damage and legal costs.

The report also recommended other new measures to crack down on drunk driving:

  • Increasing alcohol taxes
  • Enhancing laws to prevent illegal sales to those under 21 and to people already intoxicated
  • Enacting ignition interlock laws for all convicted drunk drivers
  • More effective treatment programs for offenders.

How the 0.05% Recommendation Was Reached

First, the study writers contend, most people in developed nations have a limit of 0.05% or lower. Most of the evidence the writers reviewed showed that 0.05% laws save lives, and could reduce the number of drunk driving deaths by 10% per year.

The argument for decreasing the legal limit to 0.05% is that it is difficult for people to understand how many drinks it will take them to be impaired. People experience different levels of impairment depending upon how often they drink, weight, age, gender, race and other factors. For example, a woman who drinks a typical drink quickly will have a BAC of about 0.04%. For a larger woman, it would take two drinks to hit 0.05%; and for a typical man, it would take three drinks.

Reducing the legal limit should help to prevent more drunk-driving accidents, the study argues. Once people start to understand that the limit has been reduced, more people may choose to not drive after having any alcohol at all.

The study also states that the risk of an accident starts to rise at only 0.02%, and by the time 0.05% is reached, the risk of a crash has gone up dramatically.

Advocates hope that states will begin to lower their legal drinking limits to 0.05% in the next several years. A legislator in New York state has already introduced a bill that would do just that. Once a few states do so, it is likely that others will follow suit. And this could help to eventually lower the number of drunk-driving deaths dramatically.

Were You Injured by a Drunk Driver? Contact Neale & Fhima Personal Injury Attorneys

Being injured in motor vehicle accident by a drunk driver can be a terrifying experience. You could have severe injuries that could incapacitate you for months. Fortunately, if the other driver was intoxicated and caused the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You could be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages and more. For a complimentary consultation about your drunk-driving accident case, please contact us at Neale & Fhima by calling 949-661-1007.