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Highway Safety Board Recommends Reducing Blood Alcohol Driving Limit

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Drivers beware!

If the National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB has its way, the legal standard for drunk driving will be cut from the current 0.08 level to 0.05.

Officials say too many people with less than the legal limit are involved in accidents.

"We have people who are involved in crashes who are also involved in traffic stops that have alcohol in their system but are below that limit," notes Trooper Robin Mungo, a spokesperson for the Pa. State Police.

In fact, the NTSB says that drivers with blood alcohol of 0.05 are 38 percent more likely to have accidents than those who don't drink at all.

"Don't drink and drive," is Mungo's admonition.

Always good advice, but don't look for the state legislature to rush to lower the alcohol limit.

No surprise: tavern owners are not big fans of this change.


Because it will limit the amount of alcohol you can drink and legally drive.

"I think it's nuts," says tavern owner Jim Sheppard. "I think 0.08 is fine the way it is."

Sheppard owns the Saloon, a popular establishment in Mt. Lebanon.

"I wouldn't want it to go any lower, and I don't think my customers would want it to go any lower," adds Sheppard.

When the NTSB last proposed lowering the alcohol limit, many states resisted until Congress passed a law that withheld highway construction funds from states that did not lower the limit. After that, every state dropped to 0.08.

Could that happen again? So far, there's no sign of Congress acting very quickly on this.

State police say they will enforce whatever the law is.

"If that means reducing the amount of crashes based off reducing the amount of alcohol someone has in their system, that's a win-win for everyone that's involved," says Mungo.

The NTSB says the facts favor their recommendation.

Every ninety seconds a person is injured in a drunk driving crash -- and chances are one out of three that you will be affected by one of these in your lifetime.

The 0.05 blood alcohol level has already been adopted in almost every other industrialized nation.

For the average guy, the difference between 0.05 and 0.08 is pretty simple. It's three glasses of beer over ninety minutes instead of four.

And for the average women, it would be two glasses of beer or wine, instead of three.

"To make it lower I think is overkill," says Sheppard.

The tavern owner says much more determines whether an alcohol drinker really is an impaired driver.

"Depends on what you eat, what you weigh, and how bad a driver you are. There are a lot of factors. alcohol is a factor, so is what you ate."

Trooper Mungo doesn't disagree but notes that plenty of crashes involve drivers with blood alcohol below the current legal limit, and many of those who drink and drive can't see the impact on their judgment.

"Any time we've pulled anyone over, they thought they were fine when driving and obviously they were not."

And while it's not likely to ever be law, zero alcohol in the system is the safest.

"We want everyone to be alcohol-free and obviously drug-free when operating a motor vehicle," notes Mungo.

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