OUR OPINION: New DUI proposal ignites anger, debate


A proposed nationwide lowering of the legal alcohol driving limit from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent raised the ire from the usual sectors this week when the idea was publicized by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The liquor and beverage interests protested, which is not surprising, because less consumption arguably could affect bottom lines. On the more important other hand it also will save lives by keeping additional numbers of drunk drivers – or as some prefer – buzzed drivers, off the roads. And if not totally off the roads, at least illegal and subject to prosecution if caught behind the wheel.

The blog Politico reported, “Federal safety overseers want states to lower their threshold for drunken driving by nearly 40 percent, to the consternation of the food and beverage industry. The call for reducing the blood-alcohol limit to 0.05 percent is the most eye-catching item among 10 nonbinding recommendations that the National Transportation Safety Board approved Tuesday, with the aim of reducing the number of impaired drivers on the roads.”

States lowered limits to 0.08 percent a few years ago, in part, because Congress threatened to revoke some highway funding. The NTSB said the U.S. Department of Transportation should study whether it can use highway money as leverage this time, which is a reasonable proposal for all states, including Mississippi, to consider.

The board also called for states to increase enforcement checkpoints and require drunken drivers’ cars to feature “ignition interlock” devices (Mississippi has made that change) that would prevent starting unless the motorists could prove sobriety.

If most drivers are affected by a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent the NTSB proposal is not, as one industry lobbyist suggested, ludicrous.

It is good sense. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), whose panel has jurisdiction, called the proposal a “good idea” and said he embraces the idea of “making tougher standards,” although he indicated “it will be difficult to get past many governors,” Politico reported.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving prefers its own campaign by centering on “high-visibility enforcement, the development of advanced safety technology and increased use of ignition interlocks,” Politico reported.

The NTSB’s recommendations seek a goal of bringing deaths from impaired driving to zero, down from nearly 10,000 in 2011.

The discussion has just started, and it should move forward despite objectors.

NEMS Daily Journal