U.S. Considers Lowering Threshold For Drunk Driving

by
Owen Poindexter
The National Transportation Safety Board is considering redefining drunkenness to include "kind of drunk," and "I'm not sober, but I don't know if I would say I'm drunk," or, in their terms reducing the threshold of legal drunkenness to .05% blood alcohol level from .08%.

drunk driving, blood alcohol limit, driving, police
If new proposals on blood-alcohol limits take effect, a breathalizer test would signal drunkenness at a significantly lower threshold. PHOTO: Public domain
 
The National Transportation Safety Board is considering redefining drunkenness to include "kind of drunk," and "I'm not sober, but I don't know if I would say I'm drunk," or, in their terms reducing the threshold of legal drunkenness to .05% blood alcohol level from .08%.
 
These numerical limits are inherently clunky, because some people handle their liquor better than others, but according to the New York Times, under the current limit, a 180-pound man could have four beers or glasses of wine in 90 minutes and not be considered legally drunk. Legality aside, if I drink that much that quickly, I shouldn't drive.
 
The beverage and restaurant industries don't like this idea, which makes sense, because they DO like money, and this change would result in them having less money. Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute explained her opposition like so:

“Moving from .08 to .05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” she said. And “further restriction of moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hard-core drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel,” she said.
 
If the limit is lowered to .05%, the U.S. will join most of the rest of the industrialized world. Robert Molloy, an expert in the transportation board’s Office of Highway Safety made that point in defending the proposal:

“We like to think of ourselves as on the leading edge of automotive safety, but when it comes to impaired driving and blood-alcohol concentration, we’re behind the rest of the world,” said Molloy.
 
For this change to become law, it would have to go through Congress, meaning it probably won't happen (because Congress doesn't do big things these days), but states could start to follow the lead of New York and Colorado which have middle-ground penalties for driving between .05% and .08% blood-alcohol level.

This boils down to one of those classic debates about government: do you let people behave irresponsibly, leaving their personal choices up to them, knowing that some of them will die or be seriously injured because of it, or do you be a little bit more of a nanny state, inconvenience some people, hurt business a little, but save lives in the process? The answer that democratic governments come up with are rarely all or none: you can smoke cigarettes, but only if you are over 18, and we will tax them like crazy. Or, you can have amphetamines in the form of ritalin or adderall, but only if you can convince a medical professional that you have a specific need for them. Or, you can smoke cannabis as long as you are over 21 and...oh sorry, that sentence slipped in from the year 2018.

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