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Debating the Merits of Reducing the BAC Legal Threshold for Drunk Driving to .05 Percent [Part I]

October 14, 2013

Most people know that driving with a BAC of .08 percent or above presents an unreasonable risk of injury to others.  The establishment of this BAC threshold may create a false sense of security that driving with alcohol in one’s blood is safe as long as it is below this legal threshold.  However, there is evidence that driver’s may experience some level of impairment even when a driver’s BAC level is a mere .02 percent according to the Clemson Redfern Health Center.  There is now a brewing debate over the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation that states lower the threshold at which a driver is considered impaired to .05 BAC.  We consider the relative merits of whether this recommendation is justified in this two-part blog post.

Although significant progress has been made in terms of confronting our nation’s drunk driving problem during the last decade, alcohol impaired drivers still cause one fatality and injury to twenty others every hour according to the NTSB.  When these statistics are annualized, the human costs of drunken driving rise to 10,000 drunk driving fatalities and 173,000 alcohol-related injury victims.

There are two key justifications for lowering the “per se” BAC threshold at which drivers are presumed to be impaired by alcohol.  The first rationale is that the value of preventing car crashes involving drunk drivers outweighs the convenience of being able to operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.  The other main rationale is that drivers who consume even small amounts of alcohol may pose a risk to other vehicle occupants, motorcyclists and pedestrians.  The Clemson Redfern Health Center website provides the following overview of how alcohol impacts drivers at different BAC levels:

.02-.04% BAC: A driver may be slightly lightheaded and experience a slight lowering of inhibitions.  Any emotions that a driver was experiencing prior to consuming alcohol, such as anger or anxiety may be intensified.  These changes may be mild and unnoticeable to others.

.05-.07 BAC: At this BAC level, a person’s behavior is definitely affected by feelings of relaxation, lowered inhibitions and the mild sensation of euphoria.  A driver’s concentration level also can be affected at this BAC level.

.08-.09 BAC: Drivers will tend to overestimate the level at which they are functioning when their BAC rises into this range.  Motorists with this BAC level may start to exhibit slurred speech and a lack of balance or coordination.  This BAC level may also cause impaired motor skills.  Despite these physical impairments, a driver’s judgment may be adversely impacted so that the driver cannot make accurate assessments of his or her driving ability. 

This evidence of impairment at lower BAC levels provides insight into why the NTSB and others want to lower the .08 BAC DUI “per se” standard.  We encourage you to read part two of this two-part blog post, which provides a closer look at the arguments on both sides of this dispute. 

If you or your loved one is injured in a collision involving an alcohol impaired driver, our experienced Georgia car accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. 

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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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.

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