NTSB Recommends States Lower Blood Alcohol Limit to 0.05
The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending all states to drop the legal blood alcohol concentration levels from 0.08 to 0.05 or even lower.
NBC Montana says the goal is to deter people from driving while intoxicated.
The NTSB proposed this idea for the last three years, but not a single state implemented it. Every state, including Montana, sets the legal limit at point 0.08. They say most drivers are impaired by the time they reach 0.05.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Andrew Novak says lowering the limit sounds like a good idea, but it may be harder for officers to detect someone under the influence.
"When someone is impaired to the level of a 0.08 BAC, a trained observer such as myself is able to detect that, simply with my training and experience, but someone lower than that, it becomes difficult," said Novak
Novak said if states change the law, catching someone with a BAC of 0.05 is not going to be the biggest concern.
"It's not the people that are driving at a 0.05 that really creates the problem that we're seeing with intoxicated driving or DUI. Generally the crashes we see when people have been drinking -- most of the time their intoxication is well over the excess of 0.08."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. It amounts to one death every 51 minutes.
The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes adds up to more than $59 million.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials say, of the 9,967 people who died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2014, there were more than 6,000 drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
Missoula resident Kelsey McMullen says she supports lowering the legal limit.
"I think it will help, I know drunk driving is a huge issue in Montana, so lowering it will at least be one thing they can do to fix the problem," said McMullen.
Novak says if anyone is unsure of their drinking limit they can purchase a personal breathalyzer unit or just don't get behind the wheel.
According to an online blood calculator, a 0.05 BAC limit would mean the number of drinks an average-weight man of 180 pounds could have is two.
A 100-pound woman reaches 0.08 with just one drink; two drinks would put any woman under 220 pounds at or above the government's desired limit.