Report suggests lowering drunk driving threshold to .05 percent BAC

(WHAM photo)

Undated – New recommendations about lowering the threshold for drunk driving are sparking conversations about impairment behind the wheel.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has suggested, in a government-commissioned report, that drivers should have a blood alcohol content of no more than .05 percent, instead of the current .08 percent.

While everyone is different, experts say, on average, a 150-pound person would reach a B.A.C. of .05 by having two drinks in an hour.

The suggestion is one of several outlined in the report. The full report can be downloaded here.

Peggy Duffy, the coordinator of Monroe County’s STOP DWI Program said the .05 threshold would be a welcome change in the future, but added there was work to be done before reaching that point.

“Being somebody who’s had multiple family members killed by impaired drivers, I know how important it is for people to stay sober behind the wheel,” said Duffy. “So that would be my first priority, is to help people understand that any kind of impairment affects your driving ability, so that could affect somebody else’s life. “

Duffy said, before the threshold is lowered to .05, people need to have a better grasp of .08.

“I think we really need to be clear at .08 and stand at .08, and then over time – because we know that .05 is a safer level. But the problem is we’re not even recognizing how intoxicated people are at .08,” she said. “I think we need to realize that .08 is four drinks in an hour for a 150-pound person. That’s a lot of drinking for an individual. So, first we have to identify and move forward on what the law is now, so that we can see and move forward and change it the future, so that we save our young people and our lives and the quality of life in our community.”

People whom 13WHAM spoke with Friday night were supportive of the idea, but also offered some constructive criticisms.

“From a public safety standpoint, obviously, lowering the blood alcohol content of our drivers is obviously the best-case scenario for the safety of the people,” said Joshua Maiolo. “But from a consumer standpoint, personally, me being able to tell, ‘Alright, now I’m at .08 to .05,’ personally, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. All I know is that, after one drink, I’m not getting in a car and driving. It’s up to the people to make the conscious decision. Maybe lowering it is better, maybe it won’t make a difference, but we’ll see.”

“We were just Googling what’s one beer, what’s your BAC,” he added, “and we didn’t find the answer. I think it’s up to the body, and everybody’s body’s different. Everybody’s blood is different. Everybody’s type of drink is different. It’s just all situational. So just don’t drink and, I think, the message to get across here.”

“I know a lot of people who’ve lost family members, a lot of friends who lost family members or even their own friends, parents due to drunk driving,” said Sara Schwarz. “So just knowing that maybe could make things safer for people out there just kind of gives you a little peace of mind.”

“We’re responsible as it is, now that Uber and Lyft are here,” said Jeff Byrd. “I personally know my grandparents got hit by a drunk driver was I was younger, so that part kind of takes it home. I think there’s more opportunities now more than ever to be safe.”

Duffy – as well as others we spoke with, want people to remember that drunk driving and buzzed driving are not okay, and that doing either puts lives at risk.

“I think it’s just important for people to realize that quality of life is very important within our community for everyone,” said Duffy, “and we all have to respect each other and taking risks with other people’s lives is just a little too much for everybody else to handle.”

“Just be safe and call someone if you need to,” said Schwarz. “Don’t be stupid.”

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