Feds propose lowering drunk driving limit to 0.05

Federal accident investigators are recommending that states cut their threshold for drunken driving by nearly half.

Federal accident investigators are recommending that states cut their threshold for drunken driving by nearly half.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all 50 states adopt a a blood-alcohol content cutoff at 0.05 compared to the current standard, 0.08.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman called the drunk driving situation in America a "national epidemic" that kills about 10,000 people each year.

Under current law, a 180-pound male will hit the drunk driving threshold after four 5 oz. glasses of wine in an hour, according to the University of Oklakhoma's blood alcohol calculator. That same person would hit the newly proposed 0.05 threshold after two to three glasses in the same period.

A 140-pound woman would likely be over the 0.05 threshold after two 5 oz. glasses of wine in an hour.

Many factors besides gender and weight influence a person's blood-alcohol content, however.

The NTSB investigates transportation accidents and advises national and state legislatures on safety issues. The board cannot, however, impose new regulations. It can simply suggest new guidelines to Congress and the states.

When attention was first brought to drunk driving in the early 1980's, many states required a 0.15 BAC rate. Over the next 24 years, however, with pushes from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, states adopted a 0.08 standard.

Earlier this year, Michigan was faced with the possibility of an increase of it's BAC threshold policy from 0.08 to 0.10.

Under President Clinton's legislation from 2003, all states would be financially penalized for failing to enact 0.08 BAC drunk driving laws. When the law was written, it called for the state's limit to increase to 0.10 this year.

Gov. Snyder signed legislation preventing the increase earlier this month. He said in a statement that it sends the message that "Michigan is serious about stopping drinking and driving" and helping law enforcement protect public safety.

The state risked losing more than $50 million in federal funding if their limit did not stay at 0.08. It is likely that federal funding will be used as a bargaining tool to convince states to lower their levels even more if the 0.05 level is enacted.

A lower BAC level may prove to be a problem for local businesses who are dependent on beer and wine sales.

Northern Michigan has become a hub for wine and beer festivals and tastings, and local businesses say they may see a decrease in customers if the new suggestion becomes law.

7&4's Kate Fox will be speaking with local businesses as well as law enforcement to get their take on the potential decrease today.

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