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Safety Board Wants Lower Blood Alcohol Content Limit

Story By: Larry Stine



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  Original Published: 5/16/2013  The National Transportation Safety Board wants to lower the legal limit for drinking and driving.    The agency says it would save the lives of about 500 people each year.    But, some industries disagree with the new recommendations.   Lisa Sylvester reports.   If your blood alcohol content level is over .08-percent, then you can't legally drive a car.   That's the current law in all states.   But the National Transportation Safety Board is now recommending the blood alcohol level for drunk driving be lowered to .05-percent.   The federal government says most drivers begin showing signs of impairment at a level under .08-percent.   "Alcohol impraired crashes are not accidents. They are crimes," says Deborah Hersman, Chairman, Natonal Transportation Safety Board.   We asked the Prince George'e, County, Maryland Police Department to help us show how much of a difference there is between .08-percent and .05-percent, so we enlisted our CNN colleague Tim Stoutzenberger.   He is 6-foot-2, weighs 200 pounds and had a couple of slices of pizza a few hours before our test.   Tim drinks several shots.   That brings up his blood alcohol level to just above .05-percent.   But as he continues downing shots, his eyes becoming glassier, his vision less focused.   But there are several factors that play into how soon someone reaches a level where they are too drunk to drive.   Tim had five shots over an hour-and-a-half.   That got him to .09-percent.   Someone who is smaller or not used to drinking would be intoxicared a lot sooner.   "You have time, how long you drank, the amount you drank, stomach content and also your body weight," says Corporal Michael Rose of the Prince George's County, Maryland Police Department. "So, those factors all factor into how quickly you're going to get intoxicated."   The American Beverage Institute is criticizing the NTSB recommendation, saying it could include a smaller woman who has had only one drink.   "Moving from .08 to .05 would criminalize perfectly responsivble behavior. Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hardcore drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel," says Corporal Rose.   But the NTSB argues the lower limit would put the United States in line with more than 100 countries that have already adopted the .05 level.   Corporal Rose supports the lower limit, saying people often drink alcohol beyond what their body can metabolize.   "Your short-term memory is impaired. Often times your reflezes are impaired. That's whay again, it slows you down so you don't have that quick response to go from your gas to your brake," he says. "You don't have that quick response that if somebody jumps out in front of you, to swerve to avoid them. Or, if you do have to swerve to correct yourself."   "It's important to note this is a recommendation,. It would still be up to the states to change the law. And, that's going to be tough," says CNN's Lisa Sylvester. "There was a huge fight about a decade ago to convince states to lower the blood alcohol impairment level back then to .08."
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