Is it time to lower the drunk driving threshold to 0.05 BAC?

A recent study says that the current 0.08 BAC threshold is too high and should be lowered to 0.05.

In both California and across the nation, people are considered to be too drunk to drive when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels reach 0.08. While 0.08 is an easy number to remember, most people don't actually have the tools necessary to know when they have reached that threshold. Furthermore, a person's ability to drive deteriorates even before they reach a 0.08 BAC threshold. As Forbes reports, that has led one government study to call on states to reduce drunk driving car accidents by lowering their legal BAC thresholds to 0.05.

Drunk before 0.08 BAC?

While 0.08 may be considered the level at which one is legally considered too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle safely, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that limit may be set too high. A person's ability to drive safely deteriorates even if they have only had a couple of drinks and well before they reach the 0.08 threshold. Even very low levels of BAC have been shown to lead to deteriorating driving abilities, the authors of the recent drunk driving study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine say.

Those authors point out that other countries, including Austria, Denmark, and Japan, have lowered their legal BAC thresholds to 0.05 and seen a corresponding decline in drunk driving accidents. They say that the U.S. should follow their lead and also lower its BAC threshold. Currently, the BAC threshold for drivers over 21 is 0.08 in every state, although Utah plans on lowering its limit to 0.05 at the end of the year.

Drunk driving deaths have declined in recent decades, thanks largely to education campaigns and tougher drunk driving enforcement. However, despite those improvements drunk driving remains the single largest cause of fatal traffic accidents, leading to more than 10,000 deaths each year.

California drunk driving laws fall short

The issue is especially pertinent in California, where in MADD's latest Report to the Nation the anti-drunk driving group noted that the Golden State's drunk driving laws were middling at best. MADD pointed out that California, while having a pilot program in place in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties, currently does not have a statewide all-offenders ignition interlock law. Also, the state, while imposing additional penalties for people who drive drunk with a child in the car, currently doesn't make the offense a felony.

Help after an accident

For those who have been hurt in an accident that may have been caused by a drunk driver, additional compensation may be available. A personal injury attorney can help accident victims learn about what compensation they may be able to pursue and how they can hold an alleged drunk driver accountable for their actions.