More people throughout North Carolina may find themselves facing driving while impaired charges if the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has its way. The federal agency just announced its recommendation that the limit for blood alcohol content be lowered from .08 to .05, an almost 35 percent drop in the amount of alcohol allowed in a person's system before he or she is considered legally impaired.
The NTSB reported that as many as 10,000 lives are lost each year to impaired driving accidents, justifying its recommendation to lower, again, the impairment level for DWI. The last time the DWI limit was changed, from 1.0 to .08, it took almost 20 years for all states to adopt the BAC change.
The NTSB is also calling for harsher penalties for first- and second-offense DWIs. Apparently they are unaware of the already steep penalties that follow a North Carolina DWI conviction. Not only are there substantial civil penalties through the Department of Motor Vehicles, there are criminal penalties that can include up to two years in prison for a first offense.
North Carolina also already allows law enforcement to arrest a person for impaired driving regardless of your blood alcohol content if you appear to be under the influence.
The American Beverage Institute (ABI) has already come out as strongly opposed to the impaired driving limit change. It argues that the NTSB is trying to criminalize non-criminal activity. The ABI estimates that one drink would put an average woman over the .05 limit. The ABI also points out that, of the 32,000 lives lost last year to fatal motor vehicle accidents, less than 320 involved drivers with a BAC between .05 and .08.
Source: ABC News, "NTSB Wants to Toughen Alcohol Limits for Drivers," May 14, 2013