The federal government bullied the states into lowering the blood alcohol level at which point a driver is considered drunk to .08 years ago by threatening to remove federal transportation funds for state that didn’t comply. Now the feds want to go even lower, taking the legal limit down to .05 BAC.
WASHINGTON — States should lower the definition of drunken driving to a blood-alcohol reading of no more than .05 percent, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended Tuesday, saying the United States is too tolerant of impairment behind the wheel.
The safety board at a hearing in Washington said the U.S. is behind other countries, including most of Europe, in having a threshold for drunken driving of .08 in all 50 U.S. states.
The risk of a crash at a .05 reading is half what it is at .08, the board said.
“It’s frustrating that with the education and advocacy, with laws and enforcement and with the many processes set up to deal with the problem of drinking and driving, that we are still seeing so many lives lost,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said at the hearing.
It’s worth noting that drunk driving has declined 30% since 2006 according to the CDC, though some argue that has to do with a drop in driving in general during the economic recession. But even among teenagers, drunk driving rates have fallen 54%.
With those positive trends, why would we take this extremely costly step which would mean more tax dollars spent on jails, counseling and enforcement?
And then there’s the fact that, by any reasonable measure, .05 BAC is not that much. Heck, .08 isn’t really all that drunk. By lowering the level, are we really making our roads safer? Or are we just rounding up more social drinkers?
Rather than lowering the BAC, which smacks of prohibitionism, we should be looking at tougher penalties for repeat and/or egregious offenders.