.05 Aligns Powerful Opposition

Posted on by Defensive Driving Team | in Defensive Driving Tips

The mentioning of lowering the blood alcohol content level from .08 to .05 as the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) recommends has rallied strong adversaries. This conversation has forged an alliance between the business community, some law enforcement agencies and the vast number of social drinkers who feel such a move would criminalize their behavior.

The restaurant industry has always fought efforts for stricter regulations to make our highways safer. They opposed the lowering of the BAC level from .10 to .08 as well as the 21 drinking age. For this group, they are unlikely to waiver from their position when their bottom line is affected.

Law enforcement hasn’t shown .05 to be a top priority and there isn’t uniform support for the measure. Law enforcement would be an important ally in getting the public behind .05. They could play a vital role in educating the public about BAC levels.

The majority of people don’t want to infringe on laws that could reduce jobs in this tough economy. However, the bigger issue for most is the public misconception that people won’t be able to enjoy a glass of wine when they go out for dinner. Depending on one’s weight, most people can enjoy one drink an hour. The NTSB projects that 800 lives could be saved if .05 were to become law.

Many Americans base their beliefs on their own anecdotal experience, not on scientific studies. Getting this message out is difficult when the tentacles of the alcohol industry are far-reaching and politically connected. Who would fund an educational campaign to demonstrate how many drinks it takes to get to .05? Would the broadcasters be inclined to air such PSAs when they profit to the tune of millions of dollars in alcohol ads?

For these reasons, it will be extremely difficult to pass such legislation. What has to take place is an educational process to dismiss the myth that social drinkers won’t be allowed to have a drink. They will. They just won’t have as much to drink. We have made great progress in discouraging the public from drinking and driving. Yet, by no means has this problem been solved when according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Alcohol-related highway crashes accounted for 13,365 deaths in 2010. In addition, alcohol-related highway crashes annually cost Americans an estimated $37 billion.

NHTSA’s DWI fatality statistics don’t include drunken driving crashes where the offender is with a BAC under .08. So the fatality rate is actually much higher than what’s been reported. There’s room for a lot more progress and one just has to look at the low rates of DWI deaths in countries where .05 is on the books. Making .05 the law is the key to further reducing the DWI deaths in America.

Doris Aiken is the president of Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID).

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