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NTSB calls for lowering of drunk driving BAC limit

Florida drivers may face drunk driving charges when toxicology testing reveals that their blood alcohol level is .08 percent or higher, but safety proposals released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Jan. 13 call for the reduction of this limit to .05 percent. The safety agency says that virtually all other nations already have a .05 percent limit in place, and only the U.S., Canada and Iran allow motorists with blood alcohol levels of above .05 percent to drive legally.

The NTSB says that drivers with a BAC level of .08 percent are twice as likely to be involved in an accident that causes a fatality and lowering the legal limit to .05 percent would save the lives of between 500 and 800 road users every year. However, hospitality industry trade groups have reacted angrily to the proposal, and they say that lowering the drink driving limit will only serve to criminalize and punish responsible behavior.

However, these protestations could be motivated by business concerns. If the measure were to be adopted, a man weighing 180 pounds would be risking a driving under the influence charge after just two drinks. A 100-pound woman would have to delay getting behind the wheel after only one drink in order to allow her blood alcohol level to fall back below .05 percent.

Portable breath testing equipment may provide law enforcement with a convenient and generally reliable way to determine if a motorist is impaired, but the results of roadside toxicology tests are not always accurate. Criminal defense attorneys may argue that inadequately maintained equipment, poorly trained police officers and certain medical conditions could cause misleading breath test results, and the number of motorists falsely accused of drunk driving is likely to increase if BAC level limits are lowered.

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