Drunk driving: Is lowering the blood alcohol content a solution?

Drinking and driving is a serious problem and exposes innocent people to severe injuries and even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in 2010 more than 1.4 million people in the U.S. were arrested for drunk driving; it is unknown how many of those people were convicted. That same year, 31 percent of all car accidents were attributed to alcohol and over 10,000 people died.

New York's fight against drunk driving

New York has taken an aggressive stance when it comes to dealing with people that choose to drink and then drive. Penalties for those convicted of drinking and driving include the following:

  • License suspension
  • Jail time
  • Fines
  • License revocation
  • Ignition interlock device on all convictions
  • Vehicle confiscation

Furthermore, the state has a "zero tolerance" law which is specifically aimed at underage drivers who drink and drive. Those drivers lose their driver's license for at least a year in addition to the other penalties they face.

Lowering the blood alcohol content would reduce fatalities

The National Transportation Safety Board has stated that if states lower the current blood alcohol content level, more lives could be saved according to NBC News. The NTSB recently recommended that states should reduce the BAC to 0.05; currently the BAC nationwide is 0.08. Studies show that many people begin to show signs of impairment at 0.05 and are actually cognitively impaired at 0.07.

There is evidence that supports their argument when it comes to the number of lives that could be saved. Countries who have lowered their BAC to 0.05 have reported decreases in the number of people killed in alcohol-related accidents according to The New York Times. Those countries experienced in 8-12 percent fall in their fatality rates for alcohol-related crashes.

Is a lower BAC the answer?

Despite the statistics, there are those who feel that lowering the BAC is not the answer. One group points out the problem in western New York is repeat offenders, and simply changing the BAC is not going to prevent those people from drinking and driving according to WIVB. The American Beverage Institute also has voiced opposition to the proposal, saying that it would punish those who are acting responsibly while doing nothing to address those who drink well over the current legal limit.

Both sides seem to have good points but in the meantime, any inaction only exposes innocent people to the actions that people under the influence of alcohol take while behind the wheel. It is important to remember the victims who suffer broken bones, permanent paralysis and other life-changing injuries. If you are injured by a drunk driver, it can be in your best interest to meet with an experienced attorney to understand your legal rights and options in obtaining financial compensation.