May 14, 2013

"The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all 50 states lower the threshold from 0.08 blood-alcohol content to 0.05."

"Lowering the rate to 0.05 would save about 500 to 800 lives annually, the safety board report said."

88 comments:

LilyBart said...


Dear NTSB: How do you know? Show your work.

Methadras said...

Uh, no it wouldn't. It would however create a boom in DUI monies flooding into states and make defense attorneys busy for life.

Lyssa said...

I would really like to drink and test for a while, to really understand what any given BAC level actually feels like.

I've noticed when they do drinking myths on Mythbusters, they usually seem to be acting pretty drunk when they are not blowing very high BAC. But maybe they're just playing along for the show?

richlb said...

And lowering the speed limit to 5 MPH would save even more.

LilyBart said...

The American Beverage Institute (not unbiased, of course) notes, "The average woman reaches 0.05% blood-alcohol content after one drink, according to the institute. But more than 70% of drunken-driving fatalities are caused by drivers with at least 0.15%, representing six or seven drinks, it said"


Palladian said...

.05 is very low. For most people, it's 2 drinks or less.

Henry said...

If you lowered it to 0% you could really save a lot of lives. In theory, over 32,000 a year.

jacksonjay said...


"If we can save just one life," why don't we lower the BAC to 0.00?

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...


There is a problem with the stats. Some portion of the deaths attributed to DUI have nothing to do with being impaired. For example, you are the driver with 0.09 sitting at a stop light when a speeding out of control truck T-bones your vehicle killing you. As the driver over the limit this gets classed as alcohol related. Bunk.

Rocketeer said...

That's probably far fewer lives than Gosnell took over the course of his "career." But on that? Crickets.

Colonel Angus said...

You'll hit .05 from a cough drop.

MadisonMan said...

Government knows best!

The problem is that there is one or a hundred bureaucrats at NTSB with nothing to do. To preserve their job(s), they are advocating this.

Sorun said...

According to this, I could drink a six-pack of beer over a four hour period and be at 0.04.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Sure a BAC limit of 0.05 would save lives but building a taxpayer-funded professional sports stadium would save even more.

Rob said...

It's the same absurd mentality that caused President Obama to say after Sandy Hook, "If it saves only one life . . . " To read the articles, it's only the hospitality industry and distillers and brewers who might oppose such a life-saving measure. The idea that people who enjoy some light drinking as part of a social evening would also object doesn't seem to occur to anyone. Nor does anyone consider that though two drinks shouldn't normally put a 180-pound male over the .05 limit, given the variability of such measures and the draconian consequences of being over the limit, it will suddenly become imprudent to have more than a single drink--and a light one at that. What a world the no-riskers and scolds have created!

Brian said...

Well, they ain't called the National Transportation Efficiency Board, are they?

traditionalguy said...

No salt, no sugar, no wine or beer, no cheese mites, no religious talk, no bad words, no frightening of women or gays or Muslims, no guns, no conduct unbecoming what ever the Masters Of War on Normal Americans deems bad until next week when it gets more restrictive.

At last I feel safe.

Shanna said...

Somebody needs to teach these guys the 80/20 rule.

n.n said...

If someone drives under the influence, and does not hit a tree, did the tree make a sound?

The irresponsible people are taking away our liberty.

edutcher said...

We heard this about the 55 mph thing back in the 70s and it turned out to be a joke.

I suspect the same here.

(I know, cynic)

Scott M said...

...and soon, no talking or singing.

Marshal said...

Lowering the rate to 0.05 would save about 500 to 800 lives annually, the safety board report said.

I'll bet anyone this turns out false.

The board acknowledged that there was “no silver bullet,” but that more action is needed.

“This is critical because impaired driving remains one of the biggest killers in the United States,” NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman said ahead of a vote by the panel on a staff report.


Isn't it odd that smaller and smaller increments remain "critical"? It almost seems that once you allow bureaucrats to define success by public metrics pursuit of those metrics leads to ever more extreme regulations. Maybe we should consider how this effect drives institutional evolution when we decide whether we should empower those institutions to make rules effecting virtually everything we do. Nah, crazy talk.

Amartel said...

If it moves, tax it
If it keeps moving, regulate it

2008 and forward update:
If it still keeps moving, criminalize it

Nonapod said...

Let's just be done with it and outlaw all cars. Bicycles and public transit should be able to handle all our transportation needs.

Paddy O said...

"when they do drinking myths on Mythbusters"

I don't think it was Mythbusters that I saw, but I did see one that tested driving ability at different levels of inebriation. It was interesting, as .10 (or close) was dangerous, which is a strong buzz.

Someone who was more drunk actually became a better driver, close to no alcohol, because they were aware and compensated. They drove much safer, slower and with more care. Then, more alcohol made them much worse of a driver again.

Mr. Colby said...

Strongly resonant with this bit I read mere seconds ago at Marginal Revolution:

"A subtle, but significant tweak to Florida’s rules regarding traffic signals has allowed local cities and counties to shorten yellow light intervals, resulting in millions of dollars in additional red light camera fines."

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/05/red-lights-for-profit.html

Paddy O said...

If cars were invented today, they wouldn't be allowed to be sold.

Oclarki said...

It's really an unfair standard, and it is impossible to roll back becasue anyone advocating for higher limits is demogoged as being in favor of drunk driving. I can drive better at .08 than the person texting behind the wheel.

AprilApple said...

You can't even sniff the wine!

Larry J said...

Lyssa said...

I've noticed when they do drinking myths on Mythbusters, they usually seem to be acting pretty drunk when they are not blowing very high BAC. But maybe they're just playing along for the show?


BAC is easy to measure but isn't a very good measure of impairment. I drink very little so it doesn't take much alcohol for me to be impaired. If those Mythbusters are like me, they're not faking impairment at fairly low BAC levels. On the other hand, an alcoholic has a pretty high tolerance and can have a much higher BAC without much impairment. Some of them can walk around with a BAC level that would likely put me in a coma.

Impairment can be caused by alcohol, sleepiness, drugs (legal or otherwise) and other things. It's the impairment that causes the accidents. There needs to be better, less subjective field tests for impairment that cops can use to get impaired people off of the road regardless of the cause.

Strelnikov said...

As top that stat: Bullshit.

Pretty soon if you smell like alcohol you'll be arrested. And you won't have to be driving at the time.

The puritanical impulses of the Left are always couched in saving the children. (What? Do you want the children killed?)

Gene said...

richib: And lowering the speed limit to 5 MPH would save even more.

Well, you are absolutely right of course. If lowering the blood alcohol maximum from .08 to .05 saves 500 to 800 lives a year, then dropping it all the way down to .001 saves even more.

So why don't they do that? Well it would be like prohibition again. No one would obey it. Such a policy would only breed contempt for the law. People would say "if I'm going to be arrested for one lousy drink, I might as well have six or eight."

I have never seen much merit in the argument (used in all sorts of cases) "if it only saves one life" (or "the life of one child") then we ought to do it ("we must do it".

That of course is not the way the world works. If the Coast Guard spent six weeks looking for every small pleasure craft that didn't get back by nightfall instead of knocking off the search after one or two days they would undoubtedly save a few extra lives each year. But they'd also be totally broke by the middle of February.

We could undoubtedly save lives by requiring airlines to put three pilots in every plane or replace engines, radar and navigation aids twice as frequently as they do today.

It's a trade-off in such matters. At some point we say we say we're at the point of diminishing returns--the probability of saving additional lives is small and the cost is huge.

One things that doomed Jimmy Carter's presidency was his reduction of the national speed limit to 55 mph. That no doubt saved lives too (though far fewer than predicted and in some places increased accidents) but it also made driving on straight open roads astonishingly tedious. In rural areas virtually everyone violated the law. Even the cops thought it was dumb. And eventually it went away (along with Carter too).

caplight45 said...

More revenue for local governments. More Federal incentives ( $ ) for local cops to enforce it. More Federal control by financial bribes.

Larry J said...

We could undoubtedly save lives by requiring airlines to put three pilots in every plane or replace engines, radar and navigation aids twice as frequently as they do today.

Unlikely, at least in the US. IIRC, there hasn't been a crash by a major US airline since 2001 (an A300 a few weeks after 9/11). A couple commuter planes did crash in that time but none of the big iron operated by United, American, Delta, etc. It's hard to do much better than that.

But your larger point about cost/benefit stands.

MisterBuddwing said...

One things that doomed Jimmy Carter's presidency was his reduction of the national speed limit to 55 mph.

Wasn't that President Nixon? And wasn't he responding to the Arab oil boycott?

Oso Negro said...

Imagine how many lives we could save by controlling irresponsible reproduction! Let's set some national standards for who is permitted to reproduce. I suggest a cutoff IQ of 100 for a reproductive license, with two parents (you can fight out whether both sexes are required) one who whom holds a steady job or has a minimum bank balance of $50,000. With this in place, we can eliminate childhood poverty and empty our prisons in a generation.

Patrick said...

Someone who was more drunk actually became a better driver, close to no alcohol, because they were aware and compensated. They drove much safer, slower and with more care. Then, more alcohol made them much worse of a driver again.

Most people recognize when they are really drunk, and don't drive (not enough, though). When only a "bit buzzed," many don't realize it, and are not safe drivers.

Among the problems with reducing the legal BAC to .05 (and even .08, I would argue) is that you increase the number of people who violate it. When that number increase, you end up with something like 1 in 5 people with a DWI on their records, and that decreases the stigma, which had been a pretty strong deterrent from about the mid 1980's.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Everything will be a crime, and enforcement will be at the whim of the liberal elites and petty beaurocratic tyrants.

And you fucking Obama voters cheer it on. I hope you get hit by cars (driven by drivers with .00 alcohol levels)

glenn said...

Bucksnort. It's about the fines and legal fees.

Larry J said...

MisterBuddwing said...
One things that doomed Jimmy Carter's presidency was his reduction of the national speed limit to 55 mph.

Wasn't that President Nixon? And wasn't he responding to the Arab oil boycott?


Back around 1973, my father had a bumper sticker on his car that read, "Be thrifty. Drive 50. So Nixon can fly."

Hagar said...

Norway went to .05 a long time ago.
On the first day they nabbed to chief of police in Oslo, and in for 30 days he went.

(It was Richard Nixon - the accidental Republican - who came up with "the double nickel," not Carter.)

BarrySanders20 said...

If we raised the DRIVING age to 30 we would have far fewer traffic deaths as well.

Save more lives if 40.

And more if 50!

This is fun.

Capt. Schmoe said...

if it's all about saving lives, let's ban alcohol altogether. Oh wait a minute, didn't we try that?

Utter bullshit.

Patrick said...

If we raised the DRIVING age to 30 we would have far fewer traffic deaths as well.

Save more lives if 40.

And more if 50!

This is fun.


And cut it off at 65! I wonder if the NTSB has done that calculation?

Bruce Hayden said...

The basic problem is that in order to simplify the model, the assume a straight line relationship between BAC and fatalities. But, of course, that is absurd. It is closer to exponential than straight line. A 19 year old ASU student was dropped at a PHX area hospital a day or two ago passed out and a note that he had been drinking. BAC > .4, which is often fatal. He survived. Still, ask yourself if someone with that BAC is only 5x as dangerous behind the wheel than someone with the legal .08%. On the one hand you have someone lucky to be breathing, and on the other, someone who may barely be feeling his 1-2 beers. And, if you won't go to 5x (.4%), how about only 3x (.24%)? Still probably > 10x as dangerous behind the wheel than the legal limit.

So, is it really credible that,say, cutting the legal limit from a beer and a half in an hour to a single beer is going to save even one life?

Leland said...

So what does the NHTSA say about it?

Perhaps we could have avoided the sequester by cutting NTSB analysis of highway safety and letting them focus on civil aviation. No need for NTSB to duplicate the job of the NHTSA, which researches impaired driving. This might save taxpayers from having to pay for 500-800 Civil Servant jobs every year. Then we wouldn't have to study the effects of 3 parts per 10,000 difference in the alcohol content of blood.

BTW, Margin of Error in the biological testing will make up nearly 30% of that difference. Take that into account and you already saved over 200 lives.

Amexpat said...

When I first came to Norway the limit was 0.05, which meant that you could safely have a pint of beer or a large glass of wine before driving. Everyone took this seriously as the minimum penalty if you were caught over 0.05 was losing your license for two years and going to jail for three weeks. Roadblocks were set up on weekends and all drivers were tested. I didn't mind as I was driving a taxi and there was good money to be made on the weekends.

Now the limit is 0.02, which means that you can't have a decent drink before driving and have to be careful the day after you've had some drinks. The minimum penalty is now one month's income.

Synova said...

I don't drink at all so I have no idea how much .05 is, but I would think that the biggest gain from the change would be in revenue.

Colonel Angus said...

The puritanical impulses of the Left are always couched in saving the children.

Unless of course mom doesn't.

Colonel Angus said...

Remember, the government is there to protect you. Quit being cynical.

Civil Sense said...

The vast majority of the bad alcohol-related accidents are above a 0.1 BAC anyway. This recommendation is just about trying to snare more social drinkers in DUI checkpoints (because that is easy), as opposed to actually searching out and finding impaired, dangerous drivers on the roads.

EMD said...

I'd never be able to drive again.

Ha ha. Just kidding.

Pogo said...

I hate these fucking statists.

Democrats and RINOs are evil.

edutcher said...

MisterBuddwing said...

One things that doomed Jimmy Carter's presidency was his reduction of the national speed limit to 55 mph.

Wasn't that President Nixon? And wasn't he responding to the Arab oil boycott?


Nope, Bucketmouth.

Part of The Mo'al Equivalent of Waw - his Energy Crisis.

Rusty said...

"I would think that the biggest gain from the change would be in revenue."


TA DA!

That is all they're really concerned about.

George Sewell said...

No. Raise it back to .1

Kirk Parker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk Parker said...

Just Say No.

damikesc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
damikesc said...

Why not go ahead and make it 0.00? It's the end goal here.

I very rarely drink beer and I find this stuff idiotic now.

Their argument is as logical as "People don't drive drunk well because they don't PRACTICE driving drunk"

bagoh20 said...

I was almost killed by a drunk driver once who hit me head on in my lane sending me through the windshield.

I'm still against this. I have my priorities, and I'm safe enough from drunk drivers. The drunks who are gonna run into you because they are drunk between .05 - .08 are so unlikely that it's silly to be concerned with it. A few hundred fatalities among all the miles driven in America yearly is an absolutely miniscule problem. That justification would require outlawing thousands of other products and activities, and we would never settle for it. There is effectively no end to what can be justified if saving lives is all that matters. It is not all that matters, but arguing against that is almost impossible. I wish we could argue that do-gooders are dangerous, but liberty is not essential; it's just a personal preference.

bagoh20 said...

This means never ever having a drink with anyone on any occasion and then driving home - never. You will never be sure that you will not fail the test. It effectively outlaws drinking outside the home.

Dave said...

Emergency Highway Conservation Act signed into law by Nixon in January 1974. I remember it clearly because as a teenage driver of 17 I felt cheated. But then it was somewhat academic since gas rationing limited my driving anyway. Nixon was a putz. For someone who built his career on anti-communism it is highly ironic he knew so little about capitalism.

Fritz said...

Amexpat said...

When I first came to Norway the limit was 0.05, which meant that you could safely have a pint of beer or a large glass of wine before driving. Everyone took this seriously as the minimum penalty if you were caught over 0.05 was losing your license for two years and going to jail for three weeks. Roadblocks were set up on weekends and all drivers were tested. I didn't mind as I was driving a taxi and there was good money to be made on the weekends.

Now the limit is 0.02, which means that you can't have a decent drink before driving and have to be careful the day after you've had some drinks. The minimum penalty is now one month's income.


So that's what happened to the Vikings?

ndspinelli said...

I have a breathalyzer. You're pretty popped @ .08. I would say .06 would be righteous.

If someonme wants to make some serious money, make a cannabis brethalyzer. It's legal in many states and nobody has a practical test. It certainly does impair. However, quantifying the impairment will be difficult. Alcohol quickly dissipates in your bloodstream[24 hours]. Cannabis is detectable for a month.

ndspinelli said...

The liquor industry will fight this lowering of BAC, as they do cannabis legality.

Eustace Chilke said...

What untold amount of human suffering and even lives saved would be realized by cutting the number of federal employees in half? I say we start with the NTSB since they're uppermost in my consciousness at the moment. But just start somewhere.

I used to wonder what to do with the unemployed bureaucrats if I were granted this sort of wish. I no longer care. They'll find honest work somewhere. In the meantime they're riding us right into the grave.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

richlb,

And lowering the speed limit to 5 MPH would save even more.

Yep. I remember a George Will column waaay back (late 70s, I think) that pointed out the number of lives we could save by banning left turns.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Nonapod,

Let's just be done with it and outlaw all cars. Bicycles and public transit should be able to handle all our transportation needs.

Just what we need -- a bunch of drunk cyclists. It's bad enough that they seem to think the sidewalk is a bike lane half the time, and that those rules about the direction of traffic don't apply to them. It's not that fun to be a pedestrian in a place full of cyclists.

Actually, my husband routinely did commute by bike -- 12 miles each direction. (Current commute is more like 30 miles, and several different schools are involved, so, not gonna work.)

Sigivald said...

Screw the NTSB.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

ndspinelli,

If someonme wants to make some serious money, make a cannabis brethalyzer. It's legal in many states and nobody has a practical test. It certainly does impair. However, quantifying the impairment will be difficult. Alcohol quickly dissipates in your bloodstream[24 hours]. Cannabis is detectable for a month.

This is why it's impairment that ought to be measured, rather than BAC or blood THC levels. What should matter is whether you're in any condition to drive safely, not how you got there if you aren't. I would not (say) want to get a lift from a medical intern getting off a 30-hour shift. (The Mythbusters folks, IIRC, did a test of sleep-deprived driving vs. drunk driving, and the sleep-deprived performed worse than the drunken did. But sleep-deprivation isn't illegal.)

So what we ought to want is reasonable, objective tests of impairment level (from whatever cause). The drawback is that you can't actually administer such tests except at a crash site.

DrSquid said...

Why not lower the levels to 0.00 and eliminate highway fatalities entirely?

DrSquid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

DrSquid,

Heck, why not eliminate highways? That would eliminate highway fatalities entirely.

bagoh20 said...

If everyone was drunk, I bet the weaving would cancel out. Have you ever noticed that the double correction thing in hallways only happens if at least one person is sober?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

What I have never understood about DUI law is how it's even possible to be cited repeatedly and still not have served jail time or lost a license. Back when I was living in Novato, CA, there was a horrific case in which a drunk motorcyclist with nine prior DUIs killed a 9-year-old girl and maimed her father to the extent that one leg had to be amputated. After "Dear Jesus," my first thought was "why the hell was this guy not in prison already, let alone allowed access to a motorcycle?"

The dude lasted all of two weeks in San Quentin. Killers of little girls do not generally survive long in prisons, especially prisons full of lifers who basically haven't much to lose by killing child-killers.

Rusty said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
What I have never understood about DUI law is how it's even possible to be cited repeatedly and still not have served jail time or lost a license.

Because the object of DUI law is to raise revenues. No DUI no revenue.

JAL said...

More than are killed by insane shooters ---

Outlaw alcohol altogether.

?


Didn't think so.

ken in sc said...

Have you ever tried to ride a bicycle after drinking? It's more dangerous than driving. At least your car won't turn over on its side and throw you on to the road—unless you get really drunk.

cubanbob said...

The NTSB should recommend getting rid of motorcycles especially in urban areas and old beaters. Old beat up cars are unsafe and usually driven by people who don't drive very well. And ban old people from driving. 70 should be the limit. Old folks behind the wheel are dangerous. Young drivers, no one under 26 is mature enough to handle such potentially lethal vehicles. If you are old enough to be covered by your parent's insurance you aren't adult enough to be trusted with a motor vehicle.

ndspinelli said...

Freakonomics proves you're MUCH more likely to die by walking drunk, than driving drunk.

ndspinelli said...

Let's test and fine all people walking drunk. That would be a huge revenue for the City of Madison

Gene said...



That's a pretty good idea. You can't drink until age 65 and you have to stop at age 70. And during that five year binge period you can only drink sherry.

Hagar said...

Oh, man, Amexpat, they have not changed a bit have they? No one, but no one is going to be more righteously liberal than us squareheads up here by the Arctic Circle!

I am never going home again.

BTW, for drivers here in the good, ol' US of A.
Do not believe the number of beers or glasses of wine the TV stations have been showing as permissible. This must be 3.2 beer and watered wine they are drinking. You, drinking the real McCoy will most assuredly be legally drunk if you drink that much!

Holmes said...

The only rational response to this proposal should begin with, "Fuck you you fucking fucks."

Holmes said...

The only rational response to this proposal should begin with, "Fuck you you fucking fucks."

Mian said...

.05 would KILL the restaurant industry.

Concentrate on the habitual abusers who drive drunk and improve interlock ignition switches, etc. and get a fucking life.

Anthony said...

Requiring all Prius drivers to turn them in and drive Chevy Suburbans or Lincoln Navigators would save more lives by making their vehicles more crashworthy.

Michelle - "So what we ought to want is reasonable, objective tests of impairment level (from whatever cause). The drawback is that you can't actually administer such tests except at a crash site."

We have *something* like that in the various "field sobriety tests" that the cops used to use before police departments could afford a breathalyzer in every car. There are also signs that a driver is impaired that a cop can use to judge whether to pull someone over.