On May 14, 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a meeting to consider safety reports related to driving while intoxicated. The NTSB is an independent government agency that investigates transportation accidents. At the meeting, the Board voted to recommend that all 50 states reduce their blood-alcohol content threshold from 0.08 to 0.05 in order to make a DWI arrest.
Chairman Debbie Hersman cited to the many statistics on alcohol-impaired driving; including its role in claiming the lives of 440,000 people over the last thirty years. The proposal to reduce the blood-alcohol threshold would help save between 500-800 lives annually, according to safety board reports and recent statistics. According to the NTSB reports recently reviewed, at 0.05 blood-alcohol content, some drivers begin having difficulties with depth perception and other visual functions, and the risk of having a car accident increases 39 percent.
Not everyone is in favor of this change. The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant industry trade group from Washington D.C., is vehemently opposed to this threshold reduction on the grounds that it is criminalizing responsible behavior. Opponents of this recommendation believe that it is more important to increase punishments for drunk driving, instead of making laws stricter. Their belief is that new restrictions do nothing to counteract drinking and driving, but rather, they make a larger number of responsible people susceptible to the new laws and the consequences of a DWI arrest and potential conviction.
As we have previously discussed on this blog, there are already new stricter penalties in place in the state of New York for alcohol related driving offenses. If this proposal of the NTSB is eventually adopted by the State of New York, it is unclear how it will affect the current penalties in place. At LaMarche Safranko Law, we are committed to staying informed and notifying our clients of the ever changing landscape of DWI law.