Don’t blow it: Proposed legal BAC change raises concerns

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By Halsel@garnet.union.edu

The “.08 Don’t Blow It” slogan, which is a reminder to drivers of the legal alcohol BAC level, may soon need revision if the proposition to lower this level is accepted.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has suggested that the state blood alcohol level be lowered to .05. All 50 states in the U.S. currently abide by the .08 level of alcohol in the blood by volume.

If a driver is tested and his or her level is found to be over .08, he or she is punished by law.

A level of .05 would decrease the amount of alcohol in the blood deemed acceptable to drive, which is causing some controversy.

If all states are functioning well under the current level, why would the NTSB suggest this change? Statistics are leading researchers to rethink this level as a result of the approximate 10,000 drunk-driving related deaths and 170,000 injuries reported annually.

A substantial number of people, roughly four million, admit to driving under the influence. The NTSB aims to reduce this with their proposition by at least 1,000 deaths per year.

If .05 seems like a rather random number, than the NTSB points out that at this level depth perception is altered and drivers’ visual functioning begins to decrease.

This decreased level is not as constricting as it may appear. With this .03 drop, a 180-pound man can drink four beers in an hour, and if this limitation saves lives, than it may be worth considering.

Australia has implemented this adjustment and has seen a sharp decrease in drunk driving related fatalities. Strong critics of this recommendation are those in the restaurant business, because these individuals rely, in large part, on alcohol consumption to survive.

Karlee Bergendorff ‘15 and her family own a restaurant and supports this critique. She argues that for some individuals, reaching a .05 level could mean a conviction of drunk driving for “potentially one drink.”

She also points out that people have become accustomed to the current level and know how much they can drink and sitll remain under it.

With the perspective of a restaurant owner, Bergendorff offers an interesting point: If a bartender cuts someone off, the individual can easily go somewhere else and that this adjustment would not combat this. The last decrease in acceptable BAC from .10 to the now .08, however, took over 20 years to implement.

If that is any predictor of how this suggestion will be received, there will be plenty more attention and deliberation to come.

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