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Every hour in the United States, an average of 20 people are injured and one person is killed as a result of impaired drivers who aren’t necessarily over the current 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) limit. To change those statistics, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman and NTSB investigators recommended that the legal BAC limits need to be lowered to 0.05, in a release put out last month.
The NTSB put forth 10 new recommendations and reiterated 9 current recommendations for tougher laws, more rapid law enforcement, and increased use of technology to help change these alarming statistics for the better. To help deter alcohol-impaired driving, investigators also recommended increased law enforcement efforts, such as sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and media campaigns.
With respect to lowering BAC limits, investigators pointed to research that shows that driving abilities are impaired after the first drink and by the time that drivers’ BAC is at 0.05–which is 0.03 BAC beneath the legal limit in all 50 states in the United States–drivers’ cognitive and visual functions are significantly decreased and the risk of a crash becomes more likely.
If the BAC is lowered to 0.05, then the number of drinks that a person is able to drink given their body weight will significantly decrease. In other parts of the world, including South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, the limit is currently 0.05 BAC, according this map , provided by the NTSB. In Europe, for example, the population is more than double the United States’; however, driving under the influence of alcohol results in 10,000 deaths each year, according to The Globe . This may not be a hopeful figure, but it does mean that Europe has less than half the amount of alcohol-related deaths per capita each year. The differences may be cultural, as Europeans may take public transportation more readily and live closer to the areas in which they might drink, whereas driving in the United States is a rite of passage for young people and the United States tends to have more suburbs, however it may also be related to the BAC limits being lower in Europe, making it riskier to drive “buzzed.”
In the US, the move from a 0.10 legal limit to 0.08 took 21 years to implement, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the new recommendation of a 0.05 BAC to become law. In order to protect yourself and stay updated on the laws, consider installing a simple app on your phone or taking a drivers ed course that will help you stay current and safe.