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On the 25th anniversary of our nation’s deadliest alcohol-impaired driving crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a new set of alcohol-impaired driving recommendations. The most notable recommendation is gaining a lot of attention: Reducing the maximum Blood Alcohol Content from 0.08 BAC to 0.05 BAC in all 50 states.

These 19 recommendations are the first full set from NTSB in more than a decade, and they include a call for stronger laws, swifter enforcement, and expanded use of technology. The recommendations also include a section focused specifically on repeat DWI offenders, recognizing the effectiveness of DWI Courts and 24/7 Sobriety Programs. Despite the consequences, repeat offenders do not easily change their behavior. Although they represent a minority of drivers with a BAC level of 0.08 or higher in fatal crashes (7% in 2011), repeat offenders are disproportionately represented in the fatal crash population. In 2011, NHTSA estimated that drivers in fatal crashes with BACs of 0.08 or higher were seven times more likely to have a prior DWI conviction than those with no alcohol in their systems.

imagesCA6LQZZHSeveral of the other recommendations also leverage technology to stop an alcohol-impaired driver from driving a car. Ignition interlock devices, for example, can stop a car from starting if the driver has been drinking. The problem with ignition interlocks, however, is that fewer than 50% of those offenders ordered to install one in their car actual do it. And, many offenders claim (1) they don’t have a car; or (2) they drive a car other than the one with the ignition interlock.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) came out today with a strong response, issuing both a press statement and a blog post. “This is one approach,” said J.T. Griffin, MADD’s senior vice president of public policy. “We feel our approach has the opportunity to save more lives.”

In a blog post from MADD National President Jan Withers on the NTSB’s announcement, the organization seems to see the NTSB effort as a distraction to progress, though it doesn’t necessarily take issue with any of the specific recommendations. “While lowering the standard could reduce fatalities, that benefit would be many years in the future. More importantly, pursuing it would distract from current initiatives that are saving even more lives today,” wrote Withers. In a press release, MADD further clarified that their agenda will specifically not include support for lowering the BAC per se level to 0.05.

We are pleased to see the NTSB step to the forefront of the fight against DUI and acknowledge both proven programs that are working and opportunities to further reduce the rate of DUI, both short- and long-term.

What do you think? Are the NTSB’s recommendations on point? Are they a distraction from a stronger agenda?

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.


  1. Our roads are safer now than they have been in many years. Traffic related deaths have fallen by 20% from 40,716 in 1994 to just over 32,700 in 2010. This improvement is impressive considering the increase in the number of licensed drivers over the same period. Less impressive is the progress made reducing the percentage of traffic fatalities associated with alcohol during the same period. In 1994, 41% of the 40,716 fatalities were alcohol related. In 2010 the percentage had only improved to 39%.

    Despite across the board traffic safety improvements in the past two decades the proportion of alcohol related fatalities (and probably of accidents too) hasn’t really improved. In fact, alcohol related fatality declines have flattened out (stalled) in the past several years.

    The NTSB recommendation is not the final answer and is not likely to stop the hard core drunk driver but it is just the type of action that America needs to get back on the road to improvement.

  2. Wow, that’s too bad because smaller size people, like my mom, that are not alcoholic, couldn’t even have a simple glass of wine while out to dinner or pizza and a glass of beer! Doesn’t take much to get you to 0.05. Hmmm. Hope it doesn’t pass. Just my opinion 🙂

  3. um she probably could have one glasse of one since a 5oz. glass is equal to a .02 for an average person plus if shes eating it will absorb slower which means she wont get as drunk plus counting the time sitting there eating pizza. your body metabolizes on average .015 to .02 hour.

  4. A small female will have a higher BAC than for example, an average sized man. Eating food could slow the absorption of the alcohol, witch could lead to it taking a longer time to reach peak levels. Its very possible for a 16 oz beer to put his mother over the proposed .05 limit.

  5. I would ask those who are against lowering the BAC to .05 this question: how comfortable are you if I pick your kids up from a school event, at night, and drive them home on a two lane, undivided highway going 60 MPH AFTER I’ve been to a bar with some friends and my BAC level is .07? I’m legal, but am I safe? .08 is the level they’ve determined all drivers are significantly impaired, even the hardcore drinkers. Research has shown most people are impaired at .05, so we are basically going with the lowest common denominator here. Would you feel safe if the airline captain was .07? How about the doctor operating on you? Why are “Professional Drivers” (CDL) who have extra training limited to .04? I guess 10,000 dead people every year is ok!

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