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Transportation United States

NTSB Recommends Lower Drunk Driving Threshold Nationwide: 0.05 BAC 996

Officials for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board have recommended a nationwide lowering of the blood-alcohol level considered safe for operating a car. The threshold is currently 0.08% — the NTSB wants to cut that to 0.05%. "That's about one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 lbs., two for a 160 lb. man. More than 100 countries have adopted the .05 alcohol content standard or lower, according to a report by the board's staff. In Europe, the share of traffic deaths attributable to drunken driving was reduced by more than half within 10 years after the standard was dropped, the report said. NTSB officials said it wasn't their intention to prevent drivers from having a glass of wine with dinner, but they acknowledged that under a threshold as low as .05 the safest thing for people who have only one or two drinks is not to drive at all. ... Alcohol concentration levels as low as .01 have been associated with driving-related performance impairment, and levels as low as .05 have been associated with significantly increased risk of fatal crashes, the board said."
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NTSB Recommends Lower Drunk Driving Threshold Nationwide: 0.05 BAC

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  • by Gregory Eschbacher ( 2878609 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:30PM (#43724141)
    Look this is not ideal for folks who want to go out and have a large drink with dinner. But on Mythbusters, they've done a number of driving myths at .07999% BAC, and the results are pretty dramatic. You are definitely impaired at .08%.
    • by simp7264 ( 465544 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:40PM (#43724319) Homepage

      You mean the same episode where it showed being tired or distracted by cell phones or anything else were actually significantly more impairing than the alcohol?
      I don't think we should get rid of drunk driving laws by any stretch of the imagination. However, there are already plenty of distracted/reckless driver laws that exist. I just don't see the a need to create specific laws for every single possible way someone can increase their danger while driving.

      • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @05:10PM (#43724873)

        Driving dangerously should be the issue, period. We shouldn't need to make five thousand laws for five thousand contexts. If you are reckless and dangerous on the road because of texting, talking on the phone, parenting your children in the back seat, watching videos on your laptop in the passenger seat, or just sheer stupidity or old age -- it should all fall under the same category and impact your license to drive.

        The only reason a few items might sensibly be specifically classified and identified is because of the intentional choices that go into them. For example, nobody accidentally drinks and drives or accidentally texts while driving.

        • by coyote_oww ( 749758 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @05:23PM (#43725085)

          I could go for this, if you could get it to be actually enforced. Selective enforcement ("i think drunk drivers are bad, so i'll bust them, but texting, hey, everyone does that, it can't be bad") is a problem. Fill in your own law-enforcement preferred and hated activities. Not only do you have to get police to agree to actually enforce per measured-risk, you have to get cranky old judges who liked things the way they were back then to all be on the same page.

      • You mean the same episode where it showed being tired or distracted by cell phones or anything else were actually significantly more impairing than the alcohol?
        I don't think we should get rid of drunk driving laws by any stretch of the imagination. However, there are already plenty of distracted/reckless driver laws that exist. I just don't see the a need to create specific laws for every single possible way someone can increase their danger while driving.

        I agree cell phones or even conversations are a problem but there's a big difference in that I can hang up when I encounter a potentially dangerous situation, I don't have that option if I'm drunk.

    • Are you 8? (Score:5, Funny)

      by gatfirls ( 1315141 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @05:12PM (#43724913)
      That show is maybe one step ahead of your mom saying "just one puff of pot could be your last" when it comes to issues like that. And their "science" is maybe one step above your mom saying "because I told you so".
    • by Montezumaa ( 1674080 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @05:50PM (#43725511)

      One can already be arrested for having less than a .08% BAC in Georgia, and many other states. I'm not sure about the statue on other states, but in Georgia, according to the O.C.G.A.(Official Code of Georgia Annotated), one is considered "less safe" if law enforcement can provide proof that the driver was "under the influence" at a level below the "legal limit". I have arrested many people under this portion of the DUI statue, in Georgia.

      Usually, I would establish "less safe" with video and audio recordings of the driver's inability to maintain lane and other moving violations, as well as my encounter with the driver, and the sobriety tests administered during the stop of the particular individual. "Less safe" is important, as it removes bureaucratic roadblocks from stop those that aren't capable of possessing a certain amount of alcohol in their bloodstream and operating a motor vehicle. The NTSB is doing nothing that isn't already enforced in many, possible most or all states currently.

      There are people that can safely drive with 0.08% BAC, and higher. While I personally don't consume alcohol, I do consume narcotics for severe pain relief. If one took my blood and observed the levels, they would probably wish to jail me on those numbers alone. The issue is that it's safe to allow me to operate a motor vehicle, as I'm not "under the influence"(I don't experience the negative effects of narcotics, and even have a high tolerance against some of the positive effects), or my state of alertness and readiness isn't impacted in the slightest. That is what the people should be concerned with, whether the driver is "under the influence", "less safe", or simply whether the individual isn't capable of safely operating a motor vehicle.

    • You really can't completely trust any episode of the Mythbusters where they test the myth on themselves instead of on volunteers because their expectations come into play. They could easily be subject to a placebo effect and because they believe they will perform better or worse, they do. Also, when they perform tests like this, they generally have a sample size of three, which isn't exactly statistically significant.
  • Incompatible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GenieGenieGenie ( 942725 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:31PM (#43724155)
    This is incompatible with an infrastructure that is so hostile towards public transportation (outside of some lucky big cities). I live in some backwater suburb in FL and I can't get to a pub to have a couple of drink with a buddy without incurring an extra 20$ in cab fare? In Europe this was easy, you just hop on the bus/U-Bahn/tram and viola. Also in the suburbs.
    • Re:Incompatible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ClioCJS ( 264898 ) <cliocjs+slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:34PM (#43724205) Homepage Journal
      If you care about money, you'd drink at home, where the cost per liquor is approximately 1/24th.
    • by TXG1112 ( 456055 )

      There is nothing lucky about having good public transportation infrastructure. It requires sensible public policy, a populace willing to pay taxes and an electorate that votes for it. Perhaps after a few thousand people lose their drivers license they may be inclined to support it.

    • Re:Incompatible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arbulus ( 1095967 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:47PM (#43724477)
      This right here. Floridian here as well and public transportation is non-existent. Cabs only come when you call them. They don't just roam around. And they are extraordinarily expensive. You would pay upwards of $10-$15 per mile. The closest restaurants that are decent where I live are about 10 miles away. $50 for a ride home?

      If we had decent public transportation. I would be all for making any alcohol consumption before driving illegal. But we don't live in a world where that is possible. But the truth is, DUI or no, public transportation saves lives. Getting in your car, even sober, is the most dangerous thing you do each day. And even if you are the safest driver on the planet, the other guy who t-bones you in an intersection isn't. Building a rich public transportation system will save countless live from just everyday traffic accidents, not just DUI related accidents. And it would facilitate stricter driving laws.
    • Re:Incompatible (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:48PM (#43724501)

      Let your buddy drive?

      I live in one of those "lucky big cities": Washington, DC. It takes me 45 minutes to travel the 1.6 miles to work if I use public transportation, and the roundtrip fare is $6.40 ($1.60 each way, and Metro is 50% subsidized). The subway here breaks down constantly, and is rather unpleasant -- people shit on the escalators ( happened yesterday), for instance.

      Perhaps mass transit works better other places -- I'm sure that in (picking a city at random) Frankfurt it is more pleasant than here. But mass transit is not a land of faeries and rainbow-pooping unicorns.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlastfireRS ( 2205212 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:32PM (#43724169)
    All this will result in is more arrests. The average Joe isn't going to know the difference between .08% and .05%; the only result will be a larger probability in jail time for someone who would otherwise be considered fine to drive today. If we're going to change the numbers in this manner, why not just make it 0% and at least be clear about the message: Drink at all, and you'd better be willing to not drive for a couple of hours.
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:37PM (#43724253) Homepage

      If we're going to change the numbers in this manner, why not just make it 0% and at least be clear about the message: Drink at all, and you'd better be willing to not drive for a couple of hours.

      Because machines made by man aren't perfect. You can be completely free of alcohol and blow a 0.01.

      So basically you're suggesting we give police carte blanche to arrest any driver at any time.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BlastfireRS ( 2205212 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:54PM (#43724623)

        Yeah, I get what you're saying. My point falls more along the lines of, if you lower the limit from what has been the accepted standard, you're going to end up with a lot of people falling between the new and old limits getting arrested...without a proportionate increase in safety. I get the feeling people aren't going to simply stop having that second bottle of beer with dinner because the percentage rate dropped by .03; at least not until their friends and family who were always responsible drinkers before the change start running afoul of it. Then again, I guess there's always a "user education" period...

        Ultimately, I'm just always wary when the law makes it easier and easier to be a lawbreaker. I'd hate for people who legitimately exercise responsible drinking to inadvertently find themselves in trouble.

      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Wookact ( 2804191 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @05:03PM (#43724755)

        Because machines made by man aren't perfect. You can be completely free of alcohol and blow a 0.01.

        So basically you're suggesting we give police carte blanche to arrest any driver at any time.

        Annnh, they already have it. STOP RESISTING!! You are under arrest for resisting arrest.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bananaquackmoo ( 1204116 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:41PM (#43724351)
      Exactly. More arrests means more money.
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @05:00PM (#43724709)

      And the bad part about more arrests is that it dilutes the stigmatization effect of drunk driving arrests. When half or more of the people you know have a DUI, it's only a hassle, it's not embarrassing and carries no social stigma causing you to be less likely to avoid it in the future.

      It's similar to the problem when people want the police to "get tough" in poor neighborhoods. It's nice rhetoric, but so many of those people have already been arrested before they just don't care outside of the headache. And for many it's a badge of courage for standing up to the man.

      With the deterrence effect of stigmatizing DUIs diluted, all they can turn to are draconian laws -- soon we'd probably have a 3 strikes law for driving. Then we'd have a new problem of people driving without licenses, insurance, an increase in stolen plates (because you can't get your tabs without a license...).

    • by JanneM ( 7445 )

      Which is what Sweden has: 0%. But toallow for measurement error, the practical limit is 0.02%. Which may sound not too far away from 0.05%, but that is of course before a measurement margin is applied.

      In practice, you don't drink at all before driving if you value your license. And you had better either be moderate the night before, or skip the driving the next day if you're going to a party. Good.

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:36PM (#43724251) Journal

    Why not make 0.02% BAC universal? I understand that there are practical limits, but should you really be going out for dinner, downing a bottle, and driving home?
    (a 750ml bottle of wine over 2 hours for a 180lb person @ 0.08 = legal)

    Have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner. Heck, go ahead and have two. But if you're going to drink any more than that DON'T FUCKING DRIVE A CAR.

    • A single beer could put someone over .02
    • Have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner. Heck, go ahead and have two.

      I don't think you read the summary very well:

      That's about one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 lbs.

      So no, it's more like "Have a sip of wine or beer with dinner. Heck, go ahead and have two. Sips. Because if you have a whole drink, you're breaking the law."

  • by Reverand Dave ( 1959652 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:37PM (#43724261)
    The majority of accidents are caused by people well over the insipid .08 B.A.C in the first place. B.A.C. isn't a good indication of driving impairment or base levels of intoxication. You can't really measure something arbitrary like drunkeness with a simple blood test. When you can use BAC as an indication of intoxication, it's already too late. Lowering the threshold isn't going to do anything more than increase the amount of people with DUI's, it won't do a damn bit to prevent accidents or make the roads safer. Some people are a danger on the road sober lets focus on them first.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 )

      Why does this sound like the "we don't need background checks at gun shows, we need better help for the mentally unstable" argument?

      You're right that there's people now who have 10 drinks and decide to go driving anyway, and this will do nothing to stop them.
      You're also right that there's people now who are perfectly sober and still can't seem to find their turn signal.
      And yes, there's people who have 1, maybe 2 drinks, who would not get a DWI now, but would under a lower level, while there has been no asce

    • Raise the level of skill needed to pass the driving test, skill not necessary being a function of how well somebody follows the letter of the law, but of the conditions that might be reasonably encountered outside of the driving test. Not only would there be fewer drivers, but all of the drivers would be certified to be of a skill level appropriate for real world conditions.

      For example, some driving tests involve navigating a bunch of cones at 25 or 30MPH. How about making drivers navigate the cones at a 60

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      Unfortunately, the objective results from functional tests - you know, tests where you test for impairment of a function of your body - show otherwise. As far as physiological response in places that are important - namely reaction time and oculomotor responses to visual stimuli - there is no such thing as individual tolerance. There, BAC can be fairly tightly correlated with some measures of impairment.

      Individual tolerance can be seen when you test higher cognition and vestibulo-oculomotor responses. Some

  • by cod3r_ ( 2031620 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:38PM (#43724277)
    Not every city is as great as New York or where the fuck ever these people making the rules are living. There is not always such a thing as public transportation that is worth a shit. Or taxi drivers that are few and far between if they exist at all. Just throw us all in jail right now and get it over with.
  • Good start but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ion Berkley ( 35404 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:39PM (#43724313)

    ...get serious about chasing drink driving regardless of the number.....US traffic stops with any probable cause for DUI need to get scientific, every gets to blow in the bag, non of this walk in a straight line, recite the alphabet backwards nonsense. And above all drink-driving needs to be properly stigmatized socially, I was stunned how many people drank and drive when I moved to the US from Europe, folks regularly drink many times the limit and drove when public transport/taxi is a viable alternative

  • by shellster_dude ( 1261444 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:44PM (#43724401)
    We'd prevent many accidents and most of the fatal ones if we forced everyone to drive no faster than 15 miles an hour.

    The obvious problem is that it is impractical, likely to severely impact average individuals, and frankly a pretty lousy tradeoff of "freedom" versus safety. I use freedom in quotes, because yes, "driving is a privilege not a right". On a side note, those who make the idiotic argument that the internet should be a "right" because it is almost impossible to live without it are on far more untenable ground than claiming that driving ought to be a "right".

    Likewise, with drinking, there are similar practical, freedom versus safety, and impact arguments. I personally fall on the, "the government doesn't give a crap about safety and wants to scam citizens for millions of dollars each year" side of the issue.
  • by mayko ( 1630637 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:48PM (#43724487)
    What portion of accidents, and fatal accidents are _caused_ by alcohol impaired drivers? (I believe they categorize the incident as "alcohol related" if any party has any alcohol in their system).

    No question that certain alcohol levels are severely impairing and dangerous, but shouldn't we be punishing all incidents of negligent driving with some level of standardization. If you run a red light, speed excessively (relative to traffic flow), or drive recklessly shouldn't you be subject to the same jail time and lifelong criminal record as someone who gets popped at a checkpoint or busted sleeping in their car while parked? This notion that _only_ drunk drivers cause driving deaths is completely misleading. Maybe if we start putting 17 year old kids in jail for 90 days and taking away their license when they get pulled over for texting, then we'll put all this stuff in perspective.
  • FUCK THE NANNIES (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lawrence_Bird ( 67278 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @04:55PM (#43724631) Homepage

    This MADD crusade really has to end. This is not going to "save lives" and instead is going to be a revenue source for the government and a life wrecker for those stopped. From

    Consider the 2000 federal law that pressured states to lower their BAC standards to 0.08 from 0.10. At the time, the average BAC in alcohol-related fatal accidents was 0.17, and two-thirds of such accidents involved drivers with BACs of 0.14 or higher. In fact, drivers with BACs between 0.01 and 0.03 were involved in more fatal accidents than drivers with BACs between 0.08 and 0.10. (The federal government classifies a fatal accident as "alcohol-related" if it involved a driver, a biker, or a pedestrian with a BAC of 0.01 or more, whether or not drinking actually contributed to the accident.) In 1995 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studied traffic data in 30 safety categories from the first five states to adopt the new DWI standard. In 21 of the 30 categories, those states were either no different from or less safe than the rest of the country.

    Once the 0.08 standard took effect nationwide in 2000, a curious thing happened: Alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased, following a 20-year decline. Critics of the 0.08 standard predicted this would happen. The problem is that most people with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.10 don't drive erratically enough to be noticed by police officers in patrol cars. So police began setting up roadblocks to catch them. But every cop manning a roadblock aimed at catching motorists violating the new law is a cop not on the highways looking for more seriously impaired motorists. By 2004 alcohol-related fatalities went down again, but only because the decrease in states that don't use roadblocks compensated for a slight but continuing increase in the states that use them.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @06:43PM (#43726155) Journal

      drivers with BACs between 0.01 and 0.03 were involved in more fatal accidents than drivers with BACs between 0.08 and 0.10

      I'd imagine that's because there are more drivers with BACs of .02+/-.01 than BACs of .09+/-.01. What matters is the accident rate per capita, which Reason conveniently forgot to mention.

  • by drcheap ( 1897540 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @05:21PM (#43725059) Journal

    From the CNN variation of TFA: "From a "At 0.01 BAC, drivers in simulators demonstrate attention problems and lane deviations. At 0.02, they exhibit drowsiness, and at 0.04, vigilance problems."

    Ha! I witness these issues repeatedly on a daily basis from plenty of people with zero alcohol in their system (ok, I didn't test them, but I think we can safely assume >99% of drivers had not been drinking at 8-9am for example). Let's face it, some people just suck at driving, and that makes them quite dangerous already before you even factor in alcohol. I've even experienced some of these symptoms myself on occasion w/o drinking -- especially drowsiness.

    I'm all for very low tolerance of drinking and driving, but I wish the media/politicians/etc. would stop making it out to be the only problem with driving, or that it is the biggest cause of accidents and/or deaths. On some "top N causes" lists it's even down at #5 or so. What usually tops alcohol is various forms of distractions (rubbernecking, eating, fiddling with radio, etc.), and what leads that list is usually cell phone usage. Studies have been done which shown that even talking on the phone is just as dangerous (albeit in slightly different ways) as being at the current legal BAC limit. So lowering legal BAC limits will actually make talking on the phone "even worse" than DWI.

    For those who are screaming "citation needed!" in their heads right now, here's one [] of many I quickly googled up. Plenty more out there, just go look. And that is just talking on the phone...texting and/or surfing the web is even worse, and becoming more prevalent.

    I think it's time to put more of this attention & funding against cell phone usage (not to say ignore alcohol, but share the spotlight so to speak). Better driver education & more so driver training (as in actual training, like car control & stuff) would also help overall safety considerably.

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