I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable agreeing with the likes of the American Beverage Institute (ABI), one of several non-profit “institutes” and “centers” to have been founded by über-lobbyist Richard Berman. But I must admit that they have a point on this one: The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) recommendation on legally acceptable blood alcohol levels for drivers is pointless, especially compared to another recommendation which the NTSB has endorsed, and behind which it should put much more weight.
The NTSB voted on Tuesday to advise that the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers be lowered to 0.05 percent from 0.08 percent. This would bring the U.S. threshold in line with those of certain European nations and Australia. (For the record, we Canadians also use the 0.08 percent threshold.) Here’s a quote from the NTSB report:
Many people believe that if a driver’s BAC is under the legal limit of 0.08, the driver is safe to drive. In reality, by the time a driver’s BAC reaches 0.08, his or her fatal crash risk has at least doubled, and some studies indicate it may be many times higher.
Sloppy writing. In the first sentence, they’re talking about under 0.08; in the second, they’re talking about at 0.08.
The 0.05 figure may come from this chart, from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam, which indicates that alcohol’s “buzz” peaks at 0.05. You’ll notice that at 0.08, the drinker’s state is still in “buzz” territory, although it’s wearing off fast. I can understand keeping the legal level above the “drunk line” to an extent. But what will monkeying around with that number really solve? More checkpoints here, fewer crashes there, but nothing that can be accurately described as “preventative.” Which brings me to the recommendation we like:
[Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)] is focused instead on getting states to adopt laws that require some convicted offenders to use devices that check blood alcohol content before starting a vehicle’s ignition.
Why stop there? If a device like this came standard on all new cars manufactured, and installation was made mandatory for all cars currently on the road, there could be no convictions for drunk driving offenses. I would also like to see this type of technology used to restrict automobile use to anyone whose fingertips are pre-cleared by the owner, which would drastically reduce, if not eliminate, thefts. Like black boxes, which many auto manufacturers have made standard on their own, at least part of this proposal would not require a legal mandate.
I’d say something about the 0.08 threshold being a good way to weed out the morons, but those morons put other drivers at risk, so that’s no good. Let’s oppose it because it’s just not worthwhile.