National Transportation Safety Board Report Encourages States To Lower Blood Alcohol Content Limit

On May 14, 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) issued a safety study (“Study”) titled “Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol Impaired Driving”, discussing the various steps states need to take to “achieve meaningful reductions in alcohol-impaired driving crashes.” The Study concluded that substantial reduction in alcohol-impaired accidents could be realized through “stronger laws, improved enforcement strategies, innovative adjudication programs, and accelerated development of new in-vehicle alcohol detection technologies.”

At the forefront of the Study’s proposals is a recommendation that all states decrease their blood alcohol concentration limit for all drivers. According to the Study, a reduction in the blood-alcohol content (“BAC”) limit of 0.08 currently used by all fifty states to 0.05 would correlate to a decrease in drunk-driving accidents. The Study further encourages the expansion of laws that would permit the suspension of driver’s licenses for individuals that exceed the BAC threshold and a imposition of ignition locking devices for first-time drunk driving offenders.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), of the 32,367 highway fatalities that occurred in the U.S. during 2011, 9,878 were alcohol impaired driving fatalities. An “alcohol impaired driving fatality” is defined as an accident resulting in death where the driver had a BAC of 0.08 or higher.

The Study relies on several reports concluding that there is an identifiable reduction in driving performance at BAC levels as low as 0.01, and an enhanced risk of causing an accident at BAC levels approaching 0.05. The Study asserts that a link has been proven between reductions in BAC limits and a corresponding decrease in impaired driving crashes and fatalities. Specifically, the Study maintains that the lowering of the BAC limit from 0.10 to 0.08 resulted in a decline of alcohol related crashes, fatalities, or injuries of 5-16%.

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman voiced her support for the Study, declaring, “Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable. Alcohol-impaired deaths are not accidents, they are crimes. They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will.”

According to Jonathan Adkins, a representative of the Governors Highway Safety Association, he expects resistance from many states with regard to the adoption of a lower BAC limit. Adkins indicated the focus of many states in combating drunk driving is on “high (blood alcohol content) offenders as well as repeat offenders” rather than lowering the BAC limit.

According to critics of the proposal, such a reduction in the BAC limit will have the effect of prohibiting many people from driving after drinking even a trivial amount of alcohol. These opponents point out to studies that concluded that a female weighing approximately 120 pounds will have a BAC of 0.05 after a single alcoholic drink, and a male weighing approximately 160 pounds will exceed the 0.05 after just two drinks.

The criminal defense attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience defending the Constitutional rights of individuals that have been accused of DWI or DUI. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI or DUI in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.