Lowering limits won’t be simple

The National Transportation Safety Board this week issued a report urging states to lower their limits for drunk driving from a .08 blood alcohol level to .05 blood alcohol level, among other changes.

That would translate into one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 pounds, two drinks for a man weighing 160 pounds. NTSB officials stressed they aren’t trying to stop potential drivers from having a glass of wine or a beer at dinner, but did say the safest thing for anyone who has had a drink or two is not to drive at all.

Those same officials stressed the safety issue of reducing the blood alcohol limit, pointing to reduced traffic deaths attributable to drinking and driving in other countries where a .05 blood alcohol limit has been adopted.?They also estimated hat 7,082 deaths would have been prevented in 2010 had the lower blood alcohol content level been adopted.

But in typical fashion, the NTSB also recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration create “incentive grants” to encourage states to approve the lower blood alcohol levels. You can interpret “incentive grants” any way you want, but it’s obvious that the NTSB already knows lowering the blood alcohol content level to .05 will face stiff opposition. So the board’s idea is to throw money at states to encourage their cooperation.

It’s likely not going to work. The NHTSA did not immediately endorse the lower levels, and neither did other groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and AAA. Lowering the limit to .08 in states was difficult enough, and we don’t expect any states to move quickly to adopt the NTSB’s recommendation of .05.