The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) is urging all states to lower the blood alcohol concentration that constitutes drunk driving, to 0.05%. Currently, the limit is 0.08% in all 50 states. The NTSB estimates that lowering the limit to 0.05% would save nearly 1,000 lives per year.

The NTSB estimates that even at 0.05% blood alcohol there is some impairment of depth perception and other visual abilities, resulting in a 39% increase in the chances of an accident while driving. At the current level of 0.08%, the chance of an accident is increased by 100%. Most countries in Europe and also Australia already have a 0.05% limit.

However the NTSB can only recommend the change; it has no legal authority to force states to adopt new laws. The last time a reduction in blood alcohol was recommended (from 0.10 to 0.08%), it took 21 years before the last state made the change. Nevertheless, most states do pay attention to the NTSB’s recommendation and to public opinion. We can expect many states to set new limits at 0.05% by their next legislative session.

Do you know how many drinks you would probably have to consume to surpass the current 0.08% limit? It’s worth knowing if you ever drink and then drive.

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