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NTSB Wants To Lower Legal Alcohol Limit

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A federal agency's recommendation to lower the legal limit is drawing some opposition. The National Transportation Safety Board says the recommendation could cut the number of DUI deaths but not everyone is on board.

Rochelle Ritchie has more.

Critics say it could take years for such a law to go into effect and the focus should not be on what can be done later but on what can be done now.


If the NTSB has its way, the legal limit could drop from .08 to .05 across the country.

"Studies have shown if you can bring it down to .05, you can significantly reduce the number of fatalities and accidents on our nation's highways," said one official.

The federal agency says lowering the legal limit is a sure way to decrease the number of DUI fatalities.

"There were almost 1,000 fatalities in the United States in 2011 involving drivers with a blood alcohol content of .05 and .07," said Deborah Hersman.

Across the country, 440,000 people have died from alcohol-related crashes. The most recent statistics in Maryland show of the 485 traffic fatalities, 33% were caused by drunk drivers.

But not everyone is on board with NTSB's proposal.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving say the number one goal is to stop people from driving drunk and dropping the legal limit won't do that -- but technological methods will.

"If someone is intoxicating and driving at a .08, I don't see it changing if they lower it to a .05," said Lisa Spicknall.

Lisa Spicknall is the program manager for MADD. She says making sure people who may have had one too many can't drive off is more effective.

A program called DADS involves sensors in a vehicle that can detect if a person is above the legal limit. If detected, the car won't start. And that's not all.

"When you grab onto the steering wheel, similar to getting on a treadmill, it would read your BAC through your skin," said Spicknall.

Critics of the recommendation say people who drink socially may be punished for responsible drinking behavior.

"If you're an average-size woman, one drink could put you at the legal limit and you could be arrested for a DUI," said Sarah Longwell.

It took 21 years to drop the legal limit to .08. Some are concerned it could take years to see the limit dropped to .05.

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