The federal National Transportation Safety Board issued a report last week urging states to adopt new laws that would lower the permissible blood alcohol concentration for drunk driving cases to 0.05. In Arizona, the law currently provides that you are guilty of driving under the influence if your BAC is 0.08. You can still be convicted of DUI if you are impaired by alcohol “to the slightest degree,” regardless of your particular BAC. But the recommendation, if adopted, would obviate the necessity of proving impairment in those cases in which the BAC was 0.05 or greater.
The report is the culmination of a study conducted over the past year on methods of reducing alcohol-related accidents. The NTSB examined, among other things, the effect of the consumption of alcohol on the ability of a driver to operate a vehicle, and came up with a number of conclusions and recommendations, including the following:
- A reduction in the per se alcohol limit for drivers;
- An increase in high-visibility enforcement efforts;
- Expansion of the use of “in-vehicle devices” (e.g., ignition interlock devices), to prevent impaired drivers from operating a vehicle; and
- Creation of special courts for intoxicated driving cases, focusing on the reduction in repeat DUI’s.
The report goes on to suggest that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offer incentives to states to adopt the new approach, including the lower BAC standard.
These and similar recommendations have been prompted by certain statistical information concerning drunk driving. Those statistics include the fact that recent gains in reducing drunk driving fatalities appear to have plateaued. In that regard, there were 21,113 alcohol-related driving fatalities in 1982; that number declined by 53% over the next three decades, and was down to 9,878 in 2011. In 1982, 48% of all highway fatalities were the result of alcohol impairment. Today, that number is about 31%.
The NTSB says that while the percentage of fatalities involving alcohol has been reduced to about one-third, that percentage has not charged significantly since 1995. Accordingly, the report concludes, since traditional methods are not working to further reduce the problem, additional measures need to be considered.
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