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NTSB Recommends Changing the Blood Alcohol Content Limit for Drivers

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Updated July 31, 2020 | Auto Accidents |


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends that the blood alcohol content (BAC) measure used to determine drunk driving be reduced. The BAC standard in all states is now .08%, and NTSB urges that this standard be lowered to .05%.

The call came as part of the release of NTSB’s most wanted transportation safety improvements for 2019–2020, a compilation of ten actions that NTSB wants to see in order to improve transportation safety across the United States. Some of the other items include eliminating distractions for drivers or operators, reducing fatigue-related accidents, and improving agency strategies to combat speed-related crashes.

States Make the Rules

While the NTSB urges lowering the BAC limit—and has recommended this reduction since 2013—it has no authority to implement it. Each state decides on its own what limit to enforce.

Several decades ago, states began adopting BAC measures as indicators of “per se” operating under the influence (that is, if a driver was found to have this level or higher, it was automatically illegal). Since 2004, all states have used .08% as their BAC standard. No state has yet to lower its limit below .08%.

However, in many states, the authorities are not restricted by that measure. If any alcohol at all is detected, a driver may still be charged with operating under the influence if impairment is observed. Almost every state also applies more severe penalties when a higher BAC level is detected (typically around .15%, such as in Indiana, but in some cases as low as .10%)

Impaired Driving Kills

The NTSB call for a lower BAC standard comes as part of a larger initiative to move toward zero tolerance for driving under the influence of any substance. Alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and even over-the-counter medications impair the ability of a driver to operate their vehicle safely. According to the NTSB, 29% of traffic fatalities in 2018 were caused by drunk driving, and drunk drivers claim the lives of over 10,000 people each year.

Zero Is the Best Number

Some drivers still view BAC as a threshold—that if they stay under 0.08, they’ll be fine. This belief is dangerous: for example, in 2018, 1,878 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had BAC levels between 0.01 and 0.07.

You should never drive after drinking or after using any substance which might impair your ability to operate your vehicle safely. If you’ve been at a party or other event, use a designated driver. If you see someone about to get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t, convince them to stop.

Contact an Automobile Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a car accident, especially one involving a drunk driver, you are urged to contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An Indianapolis car accident lawyer from WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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