In 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) implemented “a national limit, under which it would be illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher” to deter impaired driving. (one.nhtsa.gov)
At that time, the number .08 BAC was chosen for the following reasons:
A study published in the March 2020 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that a .08 BAC may actually be too high of a limit for drivers. That study, using data from the National Highway Traffic Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System between the years 2000 and 2015, showed that “one in seven alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths involves drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC’s) below the legal limit.” (Minnpost.com)
Of the 223,000 car crash fatalities, in which one or more drivers were impaired, 15% (nearly 34,000) of those crashes involved drivers with a BAC level below .08. “These drivers tested positive for alcohol, but not enough to be considered legally impaired.”
The study points out that the risk of a driver crashing climbs significantly once the driver’s BAC exceeds .02.(USNews.com) Since 2013, The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended reducing the legal BAC limit to .05 or lower. It is estimated that this would save up to 1,790 lives a year. (Fortune.com) There has been resistance to making that change. Other countries that have adopted the .05% limit have seen declines in traffic crashes.
Robert L. Sumwalt with the NTSB says the goal is to separate drinking from driving. “We don’t tell kids, you should only drive a little drunk. We teach them not to drink and drive…Americans can drink responsibly. And they can drive responsibly. But nobody can responsibly drink and drive.”
Drunker than you realize? A few facts that may make you a bad judge:
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