The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 15, 2013

Local officials react to feds proposal to lower blood-alcohol limits

(Continued)

Sheriff

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said he had not had time to consider the matter but said he would review the accident statistics associated with such a lowering.

“I am not saying I’m opposed, but we already have a vehicle to address (people with BAC under 0.08).”

Motorists who appear to be driving impaired may be pulled over by law enforcement officers and arrested for driving under the influence even if they do not meet or exceed the legal limit of 0.08, Blakely said.

“I haven’t given it a lot of thought because we don’t work traffic so much as police and troopers, but we still look for drunks on the road.”

A spokesperson for the Limestone County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Opposition

Not everyone supports such a change. The recommendation prompted criticism from restaurant trade groups.

“This recommendation is ludicrous,” said Sarah Longwell, managing director of American Beverage Institute. “Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior. Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hardcore drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.”

Impaired

BAC reflects the percentage of alcohol in one’s blood. The NTSB reports that at 0.05 BAC, some drivers begin having difficulties with depth perception and other visual functions. At 0.07, cognitive abilities become impaired. At 0.05 BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by 39 percent. At 0.08 BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by more than 100 percent, according to NTSB.

The agency also estimates that nearly 10,000 people die in alcohol-related traffic accidents each year, with some 170,000 people injured. The rate was about 20,000 deaths per year 30 years ago, according tot he NTSB.

The NTSB estimates that if all 50 states changed their standard to .05, nearly 1,000 lives could be saved each year.  It is also considering other steps to help bring down the death rates on America’s roads.

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