A few months ago, the National Transportation Safety Board made a radical suggestion to lower the national blood alcohol limit to 0.05. While the decision to drive after consuming any alcohol is a poor one, it doesn’t mean that every person who consumes alcohol and drives is a criminal. Indeed, someone could have a glass of wine or a beer and safely operate their vehicle within the parameters of the law.
Now, this idea by the NTSB is merely that: an idea. It is not an official proposal, and it is not realistic to think that within the next few months, the drunk driving laws regarding blood alcohol limits will change. However, the fact that this idea is being floated around certainly is an indicator of where many officials would like the BAC limit to go.
One researcher at the University of Iowa has undertaken a study to see what would happen if the BAC limit was lowered to 0.05. He will test people under the influence in a driving simulator, and see how their intoxication at this BAC level affects road safety.
But consider two other aspects to this equation. The first is that a high-ranking official of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said that a driver at the 0.05 BAC level may not be definitively impaired — whereas at 0.08, there is definitive evidence that the driver is impaired. In addition, MADD is not endorsing the idea of reducing the blood alcohol limit.
The second, and arguably more important, aspect to this debate is that the lowered limit will affect a small sliver of driver (specifically those who have a BAC anywhere from 0.05 to 0.08) who are likely good people who just enjoyed a drink or two. Combined with the MADD official’s comments that a person at this level of intoxication is not definitively drunk, you can see that the effect of a reduced BAC limit will only earn good people a criminal record.
Source: ABA Journal, “Should drunken-driving limit be lowered to .05? Researcher uses simulator to gather data,” Debra Cassens Weiss, Sept. 4, 2013