The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for states to reduce the legal blood alcohol content level from .08 to .05.
When Australia dropped the legal limit for blood alcohol content while driving from .08 to .05, provinces there reported a drop in fatalities of 5% to 18%. Every state in the U.S. currently has a legal limit of .08, and we have about 10,000 drunk-driving deaths per year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration drunk driving statistics. If reducing the limit from .08 to .05 saved 18% of those lives, we could save 1,800 lives per year with this one simple change.
We also suffer about 170,000 drunk driving injuries per year. An 18% reduction there would mean 30,600 fewer injuries per year.
The legal limit used to be .10, but when the National Transportation Safety Board recommended lowering it to .08, the states followed, though slowly. It took over 20 years for all the state limits to come down to .08.
Now the NTSB has recommended lowering the limit further, to .05. This is the legal limit in most of Europe, including vodka-soaked Russia, Bordeaux-crazy France, Chianti-enchanted Italy, Schnapps-central Germany, and most other European countries.
But at what cost, you may ask? As far as I can see, the only organized opposition against such a move are alcohol vendors, whose lobbyist has called lowering the limit “ludicrous.” I’m sure the government-is-always-bad forces are against it as well, and I suppose alcoholics and hard-partiers will be against it too, even though they’re the ones whose lives are most likely to be saved.
You can calculate what this change would mean for your drinking-before-driving habits with an online BAC calculator. For me, it would mean that I’d have to limit myself to two beers over an hour, instead of the three I could drink now before legally driving.
You know what? I’m willing to forego that extra beer to save up to 1,800 lives and 30,600 injuries this year from drunk driving accidents. Are you?