Friday, May 24, 2013

Safety agency says drinking limit is too high

Agency wants to lower the BAC from .08 to .05 

The National Transportation Safety Board wants motorists to be drinking even less than the current legal limit in order to reduce the number of traffic fatalities. The agency is recommending that states lower the legal limit from .08 to .05, following the lead of more than 100 other countries whose legal BAC currently is .05 or lower. The agency said a lowered BAC limit had reduced the number of fatalities in those countries.

“Most Americans think that we’ve solved the problem of impaired driving, but in fact, it’s still a national epidemic,” board chairman Deborah Hersman said in a statement issued Tuesday. “On average, every hour one person is killed and 20 more are injured.”

Should you have a glass of wine with dinner? 

Specifically, the federal agency had this to say to the average person out there wondering whether they should have a glass of wine with dinner:

“Safety involves understanding your risk and mitigating it. The scientific evidence shows that impairment begins with the first drink, and any alcohol consumption associated with driving reduces safety. Medical research shows that performance is affected with a BAC as low as .01.

There are many websites and apps where people can find information to understand their particular risks if they choose to drink, but you can best mitigate your risk by not driving after drinking.”

In other words, don’t drink and drive.

Recommendations to reduce drunk driving

Last week, the safety agency made public a series of recommendations aimed at reducing drunken driving, which is blamed for nearly 10,000 deaths and 146,000 injuries each year.

Investigators said they found motorists with just .05 BAC had impaired judgment, perception, reaction time and drowsiness, in addition to other impairments in their driving.

The agency also recommended continuing with sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols, along with the use of hand-held alcohol sensors that police officers can use to help them better detect alcohol vapor in the ambient environment during a traffic stop.

Will Florida adopt recommendations?

The recommendations were made on the 25th anniversary of the worst drunk-driving accident in the United States, which resulted in the deaths of 24 children and three adults.

It’s hard to tell whether states will adopt the recommendations. It took about two decades the last time states were prompted to lower the BAC limits: Utah was the first state to establish the .08 BAC limit in 1983, but it wasn’t until 2004 that all 50 states had similar laws.

Photo credit: Chuck Coker

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