NTSB: drop BAC threshold from .08 to .05

Posted at: 05/14/2013 11:53 PM
By: Dan Levy

ALBANY - The National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday they intend to get tougher on drunk driving. With an ultimate goal of reaching zero alcohol related highway deaths, the NTSB proposed lowering the blood alcohol content to determine a drunk driver from .08 to .05.

More than 100 countries around the world have already adopted .05 as the legal standard. European nations that have done that have seen alcohol related fatalities more than cut in half.

Drunk driving kills 10,000 Americans every year. The NTSB thinks this country needs to do better.

"Alcohol impaired crashes are not accidents," says Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB, "They are crimes."

"As far as whether this law would make much of a difference here," says Albany DWI attorney Peter Gerstenzang, "You're talking about a 100th of a point. Unlike most states that simply have .08 and that's it, New York has a driving while ability impaired that says at .07 is prima fascia evidence you are impaired."

For a 160 pound male, .05 is equal to two drinks. For a 120 pound woman, it would be one drink. One drink is defined as: 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or one ounce of 80 proof alcohol.

Cindy Dort, a DWI coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension, believes it's probably a long shot for the BAC limit to be lowered in New York, but thinks the proposal has started a useful dialogue.

"If this helps them make a decision not to drink and drive because the threshold is lower, then the education process is working," Dort says.

It's not clear if the NTSB proposal can be implemented nationwide. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stopped short of endorsing the board's recommendation.