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National Transportation Safety Board Proposes Legal Alcohol Limit of .05 Percent

October 23, 2013

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), on average, one person is killed in America by an impaired driver every hour and another twenty people are injured in impaired driving accidents.  These statistics have prompted new recommendations to impose more restrictions on drivers who consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

For many years, the limit associated with being impaired behind the wheel has been a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent.  In fact, the last of the fifty states (Delaware) to conform to the standard adopted that limit in 2004.  However, if the NTSB succeeds with its present campaign, that limit will be adjusted downward to .05.  While this means that law enforcement officers can take drivers with lower BACs into custody and potentially avoid accidents that would have occurred had the driver been permitted to stay on the road, it also creates a whole new level of confusion for those indulging in one or two social drinks.  Someone who may have driven home after two glasses of wine over the course of an evening may now find himself facing a charge of driving under the influence, with all the associated ramifications that follow such an indictment.

The new proposed standard is based upon actions taken by the European Union, which adopted the BAC limit of .05 and reports that traffic fatalities linked to drunk driving has been reduced by fifty percent.  Although the United States has seen a decrease in impaired driving accidents since the BAC limit was decreased from .10 to .08, there are still 10,000 deaths a year attributed to drinking and driving accidents each year.  This is one of the statistics that has prompted the new proposals.

As part of the most recent recommendations from the NTSB, the board also has proposed a special judicial process to manage cases arising out of drunk driving arrests.  In addition, the NTSB urges states to adopt regulations requiring drivers found guilty of driving under the influence to use ignition interlock devices (IID) installed in their vehicles before these drivers may get behind the wheel again, even first-time offenders.  These devices require a driver to blow into a sensor that measures BAC before he can start the vehicle.  The NTSB has urged the combination of these IID devices with administrative license suspension in order to regulate when drivers begin to drive after regaining possession of their licenses.  Further, the NTSB has urged the use of passive alcohol sensors by law enforcement personnel during a traffic stop that involves suspected alcohol abuse.  These sensors effectively “sniff” the air surrounding the driver and indicate alcohol use.  These sensors function even if the driver has taken steps to disguise the alcohol consumption, such as breath mints or chewing gum.

There are organizations that believe that this proposal overlooks the critical issue surrounding drunk driving deaths, which is that the vast majority of fatalities are caused by individuals with BACs above .15 percent.  These are drivers who have had far more than two or three social drinks.  The potential downside of the proposed decrease is that finite resources will be devoted to focusing on social drinkers while the true threat, those binge drinkers who consume far more than a couple of drinks and then get behind the wheel, will not have the appropriate spotlight shown on them.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of an intoxicated driver, our Atlanta auto accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. 

Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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