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NTSB wants .08 percent drunk driving limit reduced to .05

Accidents caused by intoxicated drivers kill 29 people every day in Virginia and around the country, and experts say that these crashes cost the United States economy about $44 billion each year. Efforts to curb drunk driving include powerful public information campaigns and stricter DUI penalties, but a growing number of road safety advocates are calling for the nationwide .08 percent blood alcohol concentration threshold for intoxication to be reduced to .05 percent. This would bring the United States into line with other developed countries and save about 1,800 lives each year according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Utah is the only state so far to have lowered its drunk driving BAC threshold to .05 percent. The state's new DUI law was opposed by business groups representing the tourism and hospitality sectors as well as civil rights activists who claimed that the legislation criminalized generally safe behavior. However, some road safety groups feel that Utah's lawmakers did not go far enough and want allowable BAC levels to be reduced to zero. These arguments are supported by data revealing that motorists with BACs between .05 percent and .079 percent crash seven times as often as completely sober drivers.

A recent study from the Texas Medical Center suggests that the public supports far lower BAC levels. More than half of the respondents voiced support for reducing the drunk driving limit to .05 percent, and 46 percent of those polled said that they supported a complete alcohol ban for drivers.

Police generally use breath or blood tests to establish intoxication in drunk driving cases. Testing protocols are strict and the equipment used is sophisticated, but experienced criminal defense attorneys may still question toxicology evidence in certain situations. Several medical conditions can skew the results of breath or blood tests, and the equipment used to conduct toxicology tests may produce unreliable or misleading results if it is not properly maintained and regularly recalibrated.

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