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Each year 34,000 Americans die in car crashes, of those 34,000 about a third die in alcohol-related accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board is suggesting to drop the legal level from 0.08 blood-alcohol content to 0.05. According to the NTSB this slight change will lower the number of death per year by about 500-800 lives.

However, not everyone is pleased with this decision. “This recommendation is ludicrous,” said Sarah Longwell, the managing director of American Beverage Institute. For those who do not know the American Beverage Institute is the lobby for the beer industry as made famous for being part of the self-named “Merchants of Death,” made famous by the movie, Thank you for Smoking.

The NTSB has no power however, and can only seek passage of the drop in BAC through the congress. Thus, they have an uphill battle fighting the lobby and congressional partisanship.



  1. gradyb13

    This strikes me as similar to the people who are constantly pushing for lower speed limits. Yes, making the maximum speed limit on all of our highways 45 mph would save lives. That does not, in and of itself, make doing so a good idea. We sacrifice safety for convenience all of the time, and being able to have a beer before driving home is certainly a convenience many people would not like to give up.

    May 15, 2013
  2. asher

    The only stupider proposition I’ve heard in regards to driving safety is raising the drinking age to 25. “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” -Benjamin Franklin

    May 15, 2013
  3. kuveke

    In econometrics we found some surprising results in looking at driving accidents. Its really hard to show correlation for factors that contribute to accidents. While there is correlation for speeding and drinking the results are skewed by high speed accidents and high BACs. Blake makes an excellent point in regards to sacrificing safety for convenience. I doubt that the benefits to reducing the legal BAC outweigh the costs of needing alternative transportation and the utility of having a beer or two before going home from dinner.

    May 15, 2013
  4. Much more effective would be putting money into more sobriety checks — lots of drunk drivers on the road, and lowering the BAC is meaningless unless enforcement is toughened.

    In 2006-7 Japan (or at least Chiba Prefecture, just east of Tokyo) was trying a zero tolerance approach. It helped restaurants adjacent to train stations and hurt suburban, roadside ones. But it also meant people became really careful, not drinking or having a sober driver. But I don’t know the impact on traffic accidents….it did give the police something to do.

    May 16, 2013
  5. tommd13

    Studies say that after 2 a.m. over 50% of drivers on the road would fail a sobriety test, so going along with what the prof was saying more checkpoints especially after 2 a.m. would most likely save lives while also generate more money for the city. This would also yield more money to continually fund those checkpoints.

    May 17, 2013
  6. cookg15

    While it would be foolish to simply take the statistics provided without any discretion, if taken at face value and 500-800 lives per year can be saved, then I think the change in legislation would be worthwhile. However, I would like to know what the effective difference between a BAC of .05 and .08 is. Is it drinking only three-quarters of a beer instead of a whole one for most people? An even less measurable difference? The difference seems like it would be so negligible that it doesn’t really accomplish anything other than broadening the window for drunk driving arrests.

    May 18, 2013

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