POLITICS

Federal safety board’s proposal would make two drinks a DUI offense

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Transportation,Food and Drink,Sean Higgins,Departments

This is the type of news that is not getting the attention it deserves. Under a proposed new  National Transportation Safety Board standard, having two beers then driving may be enough to get you arrested. For a woman, a single glass of wine might do the trick.

Think I am exaggerating? Well, read this Associated Press story:

States should cut their threshold for drunken driving by nearly half— from .08 blood alcohol level to .05_matching a standard that has substantially reduced highway deaths in other countries, a federal safety board recommended Tuesday. That’s about one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 pounds, two for a 160-pound man.

More than 100 countries have adopted the .05 alcohol content standard or lower, according to a report by the staff of the National Transportation Safety Board. In Europe, the share of traffic deaths attributable to drunken driving was reduced by more than half within 10 years after the standard was dropped, the report said.

NTSB officials said it wasn’t their intention to prevent drivers from having a glass of wine with dinner, but they acknowledged that under a threshold as low as .05 the safest thing for people who have only one or two drinks is not to drive at all. (Emphasis added.)

A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of 80-proof alcohol in most studies.

The article quotes NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman as saying this is a good idea because “Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable.”

How extreme is this proposal? Well, as the AP notes: “Even safety groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and AAA declined Tuesday to endorse NTSB’s call for a .05 threshold.”

The good news here is that the NTSB only makes recommendations. It doesn’t set policy. That the Transportation Department’s role.  The article notes most states aren’t likely to be onboard either:

An alcohol concentration threshold of .05 is likely to meet strong resistance from states, said Jonathan Adkins, an official with the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.

“It was very difficult to get .08 in most states so lowering it again won’t be popular,” Adkins said. “The focus in the states is on high (blood alcohol content) offenders as well as repeat offenders. We expect industry will also be very vocal about keeping the limit at .08.”

 

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