The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a new recommendation today regarding what should constitute the legal limit when it comes to blood or breath alcohol content (BAC) for driving under the influence (DUI) in all 50 states. The new recommendation would lower the BAC level of .08 that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and related organizations championed and fought for in the 1980s to a mere .05, which can be feasibly achieved by only two drinks in an hour in the average American male, and one drink an hour for the average American female.
The NTSB claims that such a reduction in BAC limits by the states would restart the stalled reduction in DUI-related deaths originally sparked by the earlier MADD initiatives like raising the drinking age to 21 and lowering the legal limit to BAC .08, bringing the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths closer to zero. DUI fatalities in the United States dropped from 20,000 to just over 9,500 between 1980 and 2011, or from 40% of all traffic deaths to 31% allegedly due to awareness campaigns and states gradually implementing these legal recommendations. The reduction in DUI-related deaths occurred mainly in the 1990s, beginning to stall out by the end of the decade.
The board alleges that lowering the legal limit from a BAC of .08 to a BAC of .05 would save approximately 500-800 more lives a year, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives a higher number at 7,000 lives a year. The NTSB points to other countries to back up their claim. Most European countries have a BAC legal limit of .05, and Australia recently watched their alcohol-related traffic deaths decrease by 12 percent after the implementation of a legal limit of BAC .05.
Many people strongly disagree with the recommendation for reducing the legal limit, claiming it would do nothing but put responsible, unimpaired drivers at risk for an expensive DUI conviction by blatantly ignoring the variables in the relationship between driving ability, BAC, and impairment in each individual. The managing director for the American Beverage Institute, Sarah Longwell, called the recommendation "ludicrous" and pointed out that in the 1980s "groups like MADD assured the country, that, based on all the science, 0.08 BAC was absolutely, unequivocally where the legal threshold should be set for drunk driving."
Longwell then questions whether it’s the science that has changed, or the goals of anti-alcohol activists. The American Beverage Institute instead believes that the focus should be on the drivers with higher BAC levels, since more than 70% of DUI fatalities are caused by drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or higher – which represents an average consumption of six or seven drinks. Since these drivers are already on the roads with a BAC limit of .08, what would a BAC limit of .05 do but cause an increase in arrests in what would otherwise be responsible drivers, the ABI alleges.
The NTSB can’t put the BAC reduction into place, but many state legislators will take the recommendation seriously, as well as the organization’s recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to provide financial incentive to the states that implement the changes.
When it comes to Ohio DUI, known in this state as Operating a Vehicle while Impaired or OVI, the recommendation to lower the BAC limit from 08 to .05 is not only "ludicrous" as Longwell says, but unnecessary. According to O.R.C. § 4511.19 it is an illegal OVI offense for any person to operate a vehicle in Ohio if under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or combination, or with a BAC level of .08 or higher.
An OVI offense in Ohio is therefore simply driving while impaired at any BAC level, with .08 acting essentially as a mandatory BAC guideline for intoxication. Since an arrest for drunken driving in Ohio is primarily based on the impairment of the driver, lowering the BAC level in Ohio OVI law to .05 would just be redundant. If you are concerned about the NTSB’s OVI law recommendations affecting your Franklin County OVI charge, or are seeking to fight for a reduction or dismissal of your Columbus area OVI case, it is strongly recommended you seek the counsel of an experienced Columbus OVI defense lawyer to explore all of the defense options available to you.