Tougher drunken driving threshold recommended

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- The nationwide threshold for drunken driving may soon be changing.

The National Transportation Safety Board wants to make it more restrictive to help prevent alcohol-related crashes. Crashes that kill about 10,000 people each year.

The NTSB recommended Tuesday that all 50 states adopt a blood-alcohol content (BAC) cutoff of 0.05 compared to the current 0.08 standard nationwide.

“Arizona has some of the stiffest laws addressing impaired driving in the nation,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “I don't necessarily feel comfortable as a prosecutor with the responsibility to use evidence to seek a conviction and say that should become the defacto limit when we know the science does not necessarily support that.”

Kelly Larkin with Mothers Against Drunk Driving agrees. “There is info that tells us at 0.08 everyone is impaired. It’s working, what we are doing is working.”

Still, some believe .08 is too restrictive. “I believe they are getting the social drinker not the user and abuser,” said Bill Weigle with the Arizona Business Council for Alcohol Education. His organization helps train bar owners, bartenders and servers, who can be held liable in cases of drunken driving accidents, to identify intoxication. He believes 0.05 is too low a limit for anyone to recognize.

According to the Arizona Blood Alcohol Content Chart, a woman weighing 120 pounds is about 0.05 after one drink in one hour and a 180 pound man reaches 0.05 after 2 to 3 drinks in the same time period. Many restaurant trade associations are opposed to the recommended lower limit.

“It would cut down on the amount of alcohol you can serve at one time for their consumption,” said Weigle. “I think it will be disastrous for small independents and tough on the industry.”

Kelly Larkin isn't too concerned. “I can appreciate their business perspective but saving lives is what is most important to myself and the communities MADD serves”.

The NTSB believes lowering the limit will save 5 to 800 lives a year.

No matter what the legal limit, Rick Botti says, Arizona’s strict laws have already changed the way his family dines out.

“My wife doesn’t drink at all because she's afraid so I always drive there and she drives back.”

That is exactly what MADD recommends..

“Don't drink and drive,” said Larkin. “Get a designated driver when you're going to go out and have a great time just get someone to get you home safely.”

The NTSB is only able to recommend changes. The agency can’t demand them. However, the safety board also recommended the National Highway Safety Administration provide financial incentives to states to implement the changes.