Should the United States Lower the Legal Limit for Drunk Driving?

In almost every state, the legal limit for BAC( Blood Alcohol Content) while driving is .08. This means that your blood alcohol concentration has to be at least 8% in order to be charged with drunk driving. Now, the police can still arrest anyone who appears to be impaired to the point where they can’t safely operate their vehicle. But, for the most part, .08 BAC is the most commonly used standard.

Some are arguing this amount is too high. There are a few important things to point out. First, there is nothing magical about the figure of 8%. No scientist has ever said that this percentage is anything more than arbitrary. It was chosen as a matter of public policy and lawmaking.

The question is – should this legal level for DUI be lowered? Other countries have much lower thresholds than the United States. For example, Scandinavia has a legal limit of .02. And, most other developed countries arrest people when they reach the limit of .05. What it comes down to what needs to be done to prevent people from getting hurt and killed in drunk driving accidents.

The Bateman Law Firm has the answers.

Statistics Show That Many People are Killed in Accidents Involving Lower Thresholds

There is evidence that many people are killed in accidents where the driver had a BAC of lower than .08. For example, in 2017, there were more than 12,000 people killed in this country in drunk driving accidents where the driver had a BAC much lower than .08. And, science has shown that a driver becomes significantly impaired once their bac reaches .02.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, about 15% of all fatal accidents involved impaired drivers under the legal limit of .08. In fact, about 34,000 people are killed every year in accidents where the driver had a limit over 0 but nowhere near .08.

Science also shows that the risk of getting into a car accident doubles when the blood alcohol concentration goes from 0 to .05. And that number quadruples when the level is raised to .08. This begs the question – are we allowing for 4 times as many fatal accidents by leaving the legal limit at .08?

A  man drinking alcohol at a bar.

Where Did the .08 Number Come From?

A lot of people think that reason the legal limit is a BAC of .08 because science shows us this is the point at which a driver becomes impaired. As you can see, this isn’t the case. The states are allowed to set their legal limit for DUI purposes at whatever they want. And many states already have lower limits for commercial drivers and those drivers under the age of 21.

When states set their drunk driving laws, they usually do so as part of a package. Meaning, their legislation has certain laws tied to other things. Years ago, states were required to raise the legal drinking limit to 21 because they would lose highway funding if they didn’t. The legal limits are designed the same way. States have to pick a point that they think won’t upset the lobbyists but still keeps the public safe.

What Would Happen if the Legal Limit Were Lowered to .05?

If the states were to lower the legal limit from .08 to .05, what would happen? It wouldn’t really act as a deterrent. People who choose to drink and drive do so without any regard to the law. Otherwise, they would use a rideshare company or arrange for a designated driver. However, lowering the legal limit would allow for more people to be arrested and convicted of DUI.

People who are convicted of DUI are usually the kind of people who put public safety at risk. If states lowered the limit to .05, more people would be arrested. This means their driver’s license would be suspended. So, in one sense, lowering the limit would take dangerous drivers off the road. However, it could also cause a headache for the courts. A lot of people who fall between the .05 and .08 limit would challenge their cases. The question is – is this a price we are willing to pay to keep people safe?

Contact an Experienced DUI Lawyer in Greenville

If you’ve been charged with DUI, you should contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer right away. The penalties associated with a DUI convicted are steep. It’s not something you should try to handle on your own.

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