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NTSB Recommends Lowering Legal Blood-Alcohol Content from 0.08 % to 0.05 %

May 27, 2013

All 50 states currently have set their legal limit for drunk driving at 0.08%, reflecting the percentage of alcohol, by volume, in the blood.  If a driver is found to have a BAC level of .08% or above, he or she is subject to arrest and prosecution for driving under the influence (“DUI”).  The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”), however,  recently recommended lowering the legal BAC level from the current 0.08% to 0.05 %.   In support of its position, the NTSB points out that a person’s visual acuity begins to be affected at round 0.05% alcohol in the bloodstream.  At 0.05% BAC, some drivers begin having difficulties with depth perception and other visual functions.  At 0.07%, according to the NTSB, cognitive abilities become impaired.  Further, according to the NTSB, at 0.05% BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by 39%. At 0.08% BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by more than 100%.

The 0.05% legal limit has support in other counties around the globe.  While the U.S. and Canada both set their current legal limit at 0.08%, most European countries, as well as many South American nations and Australia use 0.05% BAC as their legal limit for drunk driving.  Indeed, when Australia dropped its BAC level from 0.08% to 0.05%, provinces reported a 5%-18% drop in traffic fatalities.  The NTSB similarly believes that if all 50 states changed their standard to 0.05%, nearly 1,000 lives could be saved each year.  Opponents of the recommendation argue, among other things, that the recommendation criminalizes social drinking and will overwhelm the criminal justice system.  This proposed law would certainly be a drastic change to the New Jersey DUI laws already set in place. Only time will tell if this law will be pushed through.

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