In recent weeks, we have discussed measures that North Carolina lawmakers have been considering to toughen North Carolina’s laws prohibiting driving while impaired. Many of the changes are the result of issues that state lawmakers have raised. The concept of applying the use of ignition interlock devices is an issue that has been raised in many areas of the country, and is being urged by federal highway officials.
About 30 years ago, federal highway officials began urging states to reduce the per se legal limit to drive under state DWI laws from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent blood alcohol level. States began to follow that recommendation, and by 2004, all 50 states had lowered the legal limit.
Congress does not control state DWI laws, but the federal lawmakers do have authority over federal spending and can use that authority in funding issues to help coerce states to change their laws.
Now, the National Transportation Safety Board is starting a new surge to lower the legal limit to drive. The board made a recommendation Tuesday, urging states to lower the legal limit to 0.05 percent BAC.
The recommendation has brought opposition from a number of groups who say that the recommendation is just too low. The idea would potentially make it a crime to have even one drink before driving for some people. Alcohol behaves differently in different people.
Blood alcohol concentration levels can vary widely between people of different genders and different sizes. For instance, a 130 pound woman may be able to have three drinks over a 90-minute period and still be legal to drive under the current level. Dropping the level ton 0.05 would generally drop that to two drinks.
However, a “drink” itself can vary between the type of product, the pour of the bartender and other factors. A petite woman may not be able to legally drive home after one drink with friends after work if the level were dropped to 0.05.
The recommendation is coming from the NTSB, and has no force of law in any state. Lower legal limits already exist for some drivers, such as drivers under the age of 21, and others whose driver’s license sets a different level.
Source: New York Times, “States Urged to Cut Limit on Alcohol for Drivers,” Matthew Wald, May 14, 2013