The National Transportation Safety Board wants states to drop the current blood alcohol level threshold for drunk driving from .08 to .05—a drop of more than a third that has received criticism from restaurant owners.
Generally, it takes about three drinks for a 180-pound man to reach the .05 level and two drinks for a 130-pound woman, The New York Times reported.
NTSB chair Debbie Hersman points to scientific research for the reason behind the recommendation.
“We’re really relying on the science that tells us that people are impaired at .05 BAC (blood-alcohol level),” said Hersman on Jansing & Co. “Their cognitive functions and their visual functions diminish. Their judgment is affected and their reaction times are affected. We know they are 38% more likely to have a crash at .05.”
The new .05 recommendation received immediate criticism.
Sarah Longwell, the managing director at the restaurant trade group the American Beverage Institute, called the idea “ludicrous.”
“Moving from .08 to .05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” she said.
But the NTSB says they’re not trying to target the casual drinker.
“We are not focused on getting people to not have a drink of wine or a beer at dinner,” said Hersman. ” We’re focused on getting impaired drivers off the road and behind the wheel. Impairment begins with your first drink.”
Matt Wald, transportation reporter for the Times, said dropping the limit has helped lower the number of deaths in other countries.
“Two provinces in Australia cut their limit from .08 to .05 and one saw an 8% drop and one saw an 18% drop in fatalities,” said Wald to Chris Jansing.
Each year, 10,000 people die in alcohol related traffic accidents and 170,000 are injured, according to the NTSB.
“We kill too many people every year,” Hersman said.”People are going to tell you there’s a lot of reasons why we couldn’t or shouldn’t do this but there are 10,000 reasons why we should.”