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WASHINGTON, D.C. - A leading government safety entity is calling on the U.S. to lower the allowable blood alcohol level for drivers by 35 percent.
The staff of the National Transportation Safety Board this morning recommended that the blood alcohol content, or BAC, from .08 percent down to .05 percent. The aim is to cut the nearly 10,000 deaths every year related to alcohol impaired driving.
Most of the industrialized world already has the lower standard. "It will happen," says Robert Molloy of the NTSB. "We are behind the world."
In addition to lowering the standard, the staff is asking that penalties for first and repeat offenders be increased. NTSB staff would also like to see more technology used including a "sniffing flashlight" used by police officers which can detect alcohol odors. There is also a call to accelerate research into cars which can detect if the driver has been drinking and not allow the car to be started.
The staff report suggests that if the BAC standard is lowered, between 500 and 800 lives could be saved every year. Driving under the influence is responsible for nearly a third of all crash fatalities in the U.S. The NTSB suggests those deaths and the 170,000 yearly injuries add up to a cost of $66 billion every year.
The NTSB has no authority to change the standard. It can only recommend that each state make the change. Currently every state is at the .08 percent standard. It took more than two decades for states to lower from .1 percent to .08 percent.