The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that all states lower the legal driving limit for alcohol levels. Currently, the limit is a blood alcohol level of .08%, and the NTSB recommends dropping it to .05%. Most industrialized nations already use the .05% level.
The biggest reason behind the push has to do with the disproportionate number of fatalities caused by young drivers who have been drinking. Drivers under the age of 26 cause most auto fatalities, and 21% of those drivers have been drinking. This percentage is higher than any other age group.
At any age, even small amounts of alcohol impair one’s ability to multi-task or concentrate. Even a few drinks can affect memory, reasoning, and attention. All these effects of alcohol are multiplied for young, inexperienced drivers.
The goal in lowering the allowed level appears to be to get drivers to think twice before having that additional drink – as each additional drink increases the risk of crash exponentially.
According to The New York Times, in about half of all fatalities caused by alcohol-impaired drivers, blood alcohol levels were at or below 0.16 percent. This may suggest a sort of fuzzy understanding that a couple of drinks are okay, or another one or two wouldn’t put them that far over the .08 limit.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that about 15% of drivers admit they drive when they think they are near or even over the legal limit.
A graph prepared by The New York Times shows a stark picture: deaths from drunk drivers are clustered in the .08 – .16 intoxication range, and concentrated in the age groups 19-26. Many states have imposed a legal limit of zero for drivers under 21, but that doesn’t address the problem of drivers in their mid-20s.
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