Is 0.05 Legal Limit Looming in the Near Future?

January 16, 2017 - In The News

Utah House of Representatives

The United States has lagged behind most of the rest of the northern hemisphere in terms of the strictness of our maximum legal BAC reading. It was a tough sell to get all 50 states to adopt the 0.08 legal limit, with Minnesota finally giving in to the new standard in 2005, and even then only after having their states’ federal highway funds withheld until they met the condition.

In contrast, most of the developed world has significantly lower tolerances for drivers who get behind the wheel. Most developed countries across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East boast max BAC levels no higher than 0.05 at most, with levels closer to 0.03 being nearly ubiquitous.

However, it appears that not everyone is content with our current legal limit; Representative Norman Thurston (R) of Utah will represent the second member of that states legislature to bring forward the recommendation that Utah be the first state to enact a lower legal driving limit. He is poised to bring forth legislation proposing a state-wide limit of 0.05 when the Utah House reconvenes on the 23rd of this month.

The feelings about modifying the BAC level in the US are mixed and you will find plenty of proponents and counteractants for the measure. On the one hand the NTSB has encouraged lowering the legal limits for all drivers for decades, while others such as MADD say that have declined to back the measure because they say it would reduce attention of measures that they view as more worthwhile, such as automatic license suspension of convicted DUI offenders and no refusal laws.

As far as the public opinion is concerned, there are arguments to be made both for and against the measure. Proponents cite reasons such as the fact that most other countries have stricter limits – and often significantly fewer road deaths and accidents – and the fact that 0.05 is still plenty inebriated. That’s between two and three beers an hour for an average adult male and certainly enough to affect certain judgment calls while driving. On the other hand, opponents commonly cite the fact that a lower legal limit runs the hazard of inadvertently punishing social drinkers who wouldn’t be impaired at that level and that most individuals are unaware of how what their BAC is, so many doubt that the measure would significantly reduce crash statistics.

Therefore, it does not seem likely that this measure will be passed anytime soon, certainly not nationally even if it does become the new standard in Utah. There are simply too many other measures that can be enacted with similar ease to further reduce the number of road deaths from impaired driving, such as: continuing the public perception of drunk driving and increased enforcement of existing laws.

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