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NTSB says current drunk driving limits are too low

Drivers in Georgia are considered dangerously intoxicated when they get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher. Despite years-long campaigning by the National Transportation Safety Board to reduce the drunk driving threshold in the United States to .05 percent, these calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. Opponents of stricter drunk driving laws say lowering permissible BAC levels would adversely affect the hospitality and tourism sectors and turn safe drivers into criminals. However, the results of a recent study suggest that the public is unconvinced by these arguments.

When researchers from the Texas Medical Center's Health Policy Institute asked Americans about lowering drunk driving thresholds, 55 percent supported a nationwide .05 percent BAC limit, and 46 percent said that any alcohol found in a driver's system should be enough to warrant DUI charges. According to government car accident figures, 29 road users die every day in drunk driving accidents in the United States that cost the nation's economy about $44 billion annually.

Lawmakers in Utah heeded the NTSB's calls when they introduced a .05 percent BAC level for DUI charges in January 2019. The agency says that up to 1,800 lives could be saved each year if every state passed similar legislation. The Texas Medical Center study reveals that the public also strongly supports other measures designed to combat drunk driving, including roadside sobriety checkpoints and mandatory ignition interlock devices.

Toxicology test results are usually the most compelling pieces of evidence in DUI cases, but experienced criminal defense attorneys may question their validity in some situations. Lawyers could challenge BAC evidence when blood or breath tests may have been administered incorrectly or faulty or poorly maintained equipment was used, and they could seek to have drunk driving charges dismissed if their clients suffer from one or more medical conditions that could influence the results.

Source: Governing, "How Drunk Is Too Drunk to Drive?," October 23, 2018

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