More and more lawmakers, government agencies, and organizations have focused on DWI laws and reducing the number of drunk driving cases on U.S. roads and highways through tougher law enforcement, new state and federal policies, and stronger advocacy.
While great progress has been made, statistics show that drunk driving still account for approximately one third of all road fatalities in the U.S. Over the last three decades, more than 440,000 individuals have died due to alcohol-impaired driving.
In Minnesota, along with most other states throughout the country, drivers caught operating their vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration or BAC level of 0.08 percent or higher may generally be arrested for DWI.
For quite some time, the National Traffic Safety Board has continually and aggressively lobbied for a lower legal limit. Since 2013, the NTSB has been pushing for drivers over 21 years of age to follow a legal limit of 0.05 percent as part of an initiative to further decrease the numbers of individuals affected by cases of DWI and ultimately eliminate drunk driving altogether.
A BAC level of 0.05 would be equivalent to roughly one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 pounds, and about two drinks for a man weighing 160 pounds. NTSB research has cited that at a BAC of .05, most drivers experience a decline in visual and cognitive functions.
According to the NTSB, the move would match a standard that has greatly reduced the total number of highway fatalities in other countries. A report from the safety board revealed that over 100 countries throughout six continents have adopted the standard of .05 BAC or lower, and that more than half of the traffic deaths linked to DWI in these countries were reduced within 10 years of the limit was lowered. If the rate were lowered in the United States, an estimated 500 to 800 lives would be saved on an annual basis.
Although a lower legal limit would mean that drivers would likely have to avoid having a glass of wine with their steak dinner, the NTSB feels that the safest move for a driver is not to drink and drive entirely.
Many states are uncertain about such a major change in DWI laws. The main functions of the NTSB are to investigate transportation accidents and advocate safety issues. Although the independent agency is considered highly influential on public safety matters, it can only make recommendations to federal and state agencies and legislatures such as Congress, and is thus unable to impose a lower standard. Since states set their own BAC standards, the board is hopeful that change will eventually happen and that its recommendations will sway like-minded transportation agencies and lawmakers.
In the 1980s, the legal limit for drunk driving in many states was 0.15. But over the years, groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving persuaded states to adopt a standard of 0.08 BAC.
Apart from lowering the legal limit, part of the NTSB’s other recommendations include states expanding laws to allow local authorities to confiscate licenses from drivers exceeding the legal limits, as well as requiring first-time offenders to install interlock ignition devices on their vehicles.
Source: Published at http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/14/us/ntsb-blood-alcohol/.