In order to reduce alcohol-related deaths, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that all 50 states lower the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level to 0.05. The recommendation was among 19 other suggestions, which include stiffer punishments, better enforcement of existing laws, and wider use of technology to curb alcohol-related crashes and deaths.
According to the NTSB, research shows cognitive and visual functions are much lower by 0.05 BAC, increasing the risk of a serious crash. In the U.S., most states and territories have BAC limits between 0.08 and 0.10, whereas worldwide, more than 100 countries have BAC limits at or below 0.05.
“The research clearly shows that drivers with a BAC above 0.05 are impaired and at a significantly greater risk of being involved in a crash where someone is killed or injured,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, NTSB Chairman, in a release.
While automotive fatalities have declined since the mid-1990s, the NTSB says alcohol-related crashes have consistently accounted for 30 percent of auto crashes. In the U.S., crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers kill nearly 10,000 people, while 27,000 of the more than 173,000 injured each year suffer incapacitating injuries, and nearly 440,000 people have died in alcohol-related crashes in the last 30 years, the NTSB reports. Also noted in the release, is that more than 60 percent of wrong-way crashes were caused by alcohol-impaired drivers.
“Most Americans think that we’ve solved the problem of impaired driving, but in fact, it’s still a national epidemic,” said Hersman. “On average, every hour one person is killed and 20 more are injured.”
The NTSB says that sobriety checkpoints and increased visibility of law enforcement as well as media campaigns are effective in deterring impaired driving. Another recommendation is for police to use passive alcohol sensors that detect alcohol in the air. States are also recommended to better enforce ignition interlock devices for DWI offenders as only one in four offenders ordered to have the device have them installed. The NTSB suggests verification of an installed device before an offender's license can be fully reinstated. Administrative license suspension, where arresting officers can revoke a driver's license at the time of a DWI arrest, is another recommendation. More accountability for offenders, such as intensive monitoring, treatment for underlying disorders, alcohol testing, and graduated sanctions are also included in the recommendations.
Do you agree with the board's suggestions? Should the BAC limit be lowered? Share your thoughts in the comments below.