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NTSB Urges States to Lower the DWI Threshold

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NTSB Urges States to Lower the DWI Threshold


NTSB has recommended that the threshold for DWI be lowered by a third (or by nearly half, depending on what paper you read), from .08 percent to .05 percent. They’ve recommended this because the evidence shows that you don’t have to be falling-down inebriated to injure or kill someone on the road.

Roughly 10,000 people die as a result of people drinking and driving, according to a May article in The New York Times. With this recommendation, the board seemed to target social drinkers as well as heavy drinkers.

The information made it easy to understand what the change would mean. Currently, males weighing 180 pounds can drink four beers or glasses of wine in 1 ½ hours and not exceed the legal limit. With the change, they could only have three. Females weighing 130 pounds can now have three drinks in 1 ½ hours and not be considered over the limit; with the change they could only have two.

It also provided these statistics:

“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, according to government statistics. People with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent are 169 percent more likely.”

Not everyone likes the proposed change. A restaurant owner was quoted as saying it would penalize responsible drinkers and does nothing to deter the drinkers society should be going after. Of course, the change, if implemented, will affect restaurants’ profits. Don’t they make most of their money on booze?

Interestingly, most countries have a limit of .05. An editorial in my local paper noted that until 2000, most states had a limit of .10, but that year legislation was enacted to withhold highway construction money from states that didn’t agree to .08. (That sounds like it was a compromise.)

Also, even MADD wasn’t for the new limit. That group would rather see other initiatives implemented, although the article didn’t say what those initiatives were.

Two days after that article appeared, a New York Times editorial appeared in support of the lower standard. As the paper pointed out, separate means can be instituted for heavier drinkers. And as the editorial also mentioned, at levels below .08, the ability to stay in lane, and reaction time diminishes, while sleepiness increases. In essence, the risk of crashing increases.

In effect, what this proposed change would mean is that you can have your glass of wine with dinner and one afterward if you’re female, and two with dinner and another afterward if you’re male, with no fear of exceeding the legal limit. It sounds like moderate social drinking.

Who knows how this will play out.  We may be witnessing history in the making, or the proposal may just fizzle.



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