Tags: NTSB | alcohol | states | lower

States Resist NTSB Pressure to Lower Blood Alcohol Limit

Monday, 15 Jul 2013 10:40 AM

By Courtney Coren

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States are resisting the recommendation of National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman to lower their blood-alcohol limits for legal intoxication.

The NTSB in May asked all 50 states to lower the limit from .08 to .05, but it has failed to garner support even from strong advocates against drunken driving such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Governors Highway Safety Association, The Hill reports.

"We don't see any state going to .05," said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the governors group, "This doesn't seem to be getting any traction."

MADD President Jan Withers told Milwaukee's NBC affiliate, TMJ4, "I actually respect NTSB for its recommendation, but I think it would be a long, hard-fought fight for many more years to come."

The proposal to lower the intoxication limit included a study showing that it would result in a significant drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths.

While the MADD and the governors group have taken no formal position, they have made a series of their own recommendations, such as requiring breath-activated ignition interlocks for convicted drunken drivers. They are concerned that if the blood-alcohol limit is lowered, it could hinder efforts to put stronger safety measures in place.

State legislatures also have shown little interest in lowering the DUI limit. California, where public-protection issues often are passed first, has had no legislative interest.

Ignatio Hernandez, a lobbyist who has worked for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, says that's because the .08 level seems to be working well and, in fact, is considered by some to be too low.

"If anything, we see cases when someone is at.08 and there are questions about whether their driving is impaired," Hernandez said. "It just doesn't seem like there's enough justification."

The NTSB argues that more than 100 countries have intoxication levels at or below .05, and point to studies showing that someone who registering .08 is twice as likely to get in a car accident as someone at .05.

"It's frustrating that with the education and advocacy, with laws and enforcement and with the many processes set up to deal with the problem of drinking and driving, that we are still seeing so many lives lost," Hersman said at a hearing in Washington in May at which she made the recommendation to lower the level.

It took a period of 10 years to lower the limit from .10 to .08, and the NTSB is aware that lowering the limit could take some time again.

"We make recommendations based on what we think are the best things to do for safety," NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson told the Hill. "We don't predicate our recommendations on how likely they are to be adopted."

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