Would lower alcohol limit for drunk driving prevent injuries?

This is a dramatic revision downward from previous years. Not that long ago, the limit for many states was 0.10, and that number was only arrived at after intense lobbying from drunk driving awareness groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Some states remained unconvinced to adopt the new standard until the federal government made it clear that federal highway funds would be withheld from states that did not comply.

Now the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, is encouraging states to lower the limit even further, to 0.05. Many other countries around the world use that standard — or ones even lower — and have reduced drunk driving fatalities and serious injuries as a result.

Somewhat predictably, lobbyists for commercial groups such as the American Beverage Institute said the idea was a bad one, and that it would prevent responsible adults from having more than a couple of drinks. A spokesperson said the idea didn’t do anything to increase penalties on what she called hard-core drunk drivers.

However, government statistics show that even a slight level of intoxication can be dangerous. According to figures, the risk for a crash goes up more than a third for people who have a BAC of 0.05 percent — the threshold now being recommended.

Source: The New York Times, “States Urged to Cut Limit on Alcohol for Drivers,” Matthew D. Wald, May 14, 2013