Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More Anti-DUI Madness: NTSB Releases "Reaching Zero" Report, Calls For Lowering DUI Threshold Nationwide From 0.08 To 0.05

The anti-DUI Talibans are at it again. On May 14th, 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board released a 100-page report entitled “Reaching Zero: Actions to Reduce Alcohol-Impaired Driving”, and among their 10 recommendations is a proposal to lower the DUI threshold nationwide from 0.08 to 0.05. Prominent national media outlets publishing reports include CNN

Justification: In their official press release, the NTSB notes that each year in the United States, nearly 10,000 people are killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers and more than 173,000 are injured, with 27,000 suffer incapacitating injuries. Since the mid-1990s, even as total highway fatalities have fallen, the proportion of deaths from accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver has remained constant at around 30 percent. In the last 30 years, nearly 440,000 people have died in alcohol related crashes. They focus upon the 0.05 threshold because they believe that, although impairment begins with the first drink, by 0.05 BAC, most drivers experience a decline in both cognitive and visual functions, which significantly increases the risk of a serious crash. They add that over 100 countries on six continents have BAC limits set at 0.05 or lower. The NTSB also says they chose the May 14th release date because it's the anniversary of the May 14th, 1988 head-on collision between a drunk driver and a church bus in a rural, unincorporated area of Carroll County, Kentucky, which ultimately resulted in the death of 27 people and injury to 34 of 67 passengers. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the puncture of the bus fuel tank and ensuing fire in the bus, the partial blockage by the rear bench seats of the area leading to the rear emergency door which impeded rapid passenger egress, and the flammability of the materials in the bus seat cushions.

What the NTSB failed to mention was that the drunk driver, who was traveling on the wrong side of the interstate, had a BAC of 0.24 -- far above the NTSB's recommended 0.05 standard. This should immediately bring into question the wisdom of and motivation for casting a wider net by lowering the threshold.

The complete list of 10 new recommendations is published in Chapter 8 of the report, which begins on page 51, and they assign the tasks to three different OPRs (office of primary responsibility):

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

-- Seek legislative authority to award incentive grants for states to establish a per se blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.05 or lower for all drivers who are not already required to adhere to lower BAC limits. (H-13-1)

-- Develop and disseminate to the states best practices for increasing alcohol ignition interlock installation and compliance that are based on recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research. (H-13-2)

-- Create incentives for states to adopt the alcohol ignition interlock best practices developed in response to Safety Recommendation H-13-2. (H-13-3)

-- Develop and disseminate to the states best practices for driving while intoxicated (DWI) courts. (H-13-4)

To the 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia:

-- Establish a per se blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.05 or lower for all drivers who are not already required to adhere to lower BAC limits. (H-13-5)

-- Include in your impaired driving prevention plan or highway safety plan provisions for conducting high-visibility enforcement of impaired driving laws using passive alcohol-sensing technology during law enforcement contacts, such as routine traffic stops, saturation patrols, sobriety checkpoints, and accident scene responses. (H-13-6)

-- Include in your impaired driving prevention plan or highway safety plan elements to target repeat offenders and reduce driving while intoxicated (DWI) recidivism; such elements should include measures to improve compliance with alcohol ignition interlock requirements; the plan should also provide a mechanism for regularly assessing the success of these efforts. (H-13-7) [This recommendation supersedes Safety Recommendation H-00-26.]

-- Take the following steps to move toward zero deaths from impaired driving: (1) set specific and measurable targets for reducing impaired driving fatalities and injuries, (2) list these targets in your impaired driving prevention plan or highway safety plan, and (3) provide a mechanism for regularly assessing the success of implemented countermeasures and determining whether the targets have been met. (H-13-8)

To those states that have administrative license suspension or revocation laws and the District of Columbia:

-- Incorporate into your administrative license suspension or revocation laws a requirement that drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) use an alcohol ignition interlock on their vehicle for a period of time before obtaining full license reinstatement. (H-13-9)

To those states that do not have administrative license suspension or revocation laws and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico:

-- Establish administrative license suspension or revocation laws that require drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) to use an alcohol ignition interlock on their vehicle for a period of time before obtaining full license reinstatement. (H-13-10)

Reaction: As expected, the proposed DUI threshold elicited the greates reaction. Surprisingly, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has some reservations. While they favor many parts of the NTSB's agenda, including the mandatory installation of the breathalyzer interlock for anyone convicted of driving drunk, research on the passive alcohol sensors and administrative license revocation, which gives police officers on the highway the authority to seize a driver’s license at the time of an arrest, they think changing the threshold unnecessarily focuses on social drinkers who do not pose the same threat as problem drinkers. Sharp opposition was expressed by the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association. Sarah Longwell, the managing director, said "Moving from .08 to .05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior...further restriction of moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hard-core drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel" CNN further quoted Longwell as saying "A little over a decade ago, we lowered our legal limit from 0.1 percent after groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving assured the country that, based on all the science, 0.08 BAC was absolutely, unequivocally where the legal threshold should be set for drunk driving. Has the science changed? Or have anti-alcohol activists simply set their sights on a new goal?"

Considerable rank-and-file opposition is expressed in the comments to various media stories:

Jo, Southern California, May 14, 2013 at 1:27 p.m. (New York Times):
You have got to be kidding me; a BAC of .05 is less than one beer in an hour for someone my size! I know that, in California, DUI charges rake in more money than all other traffice violations put together, and compose a huge amount of the State's revenue. Plus, if you get pulled over with even a .01 they will cite you for a "Wet and Reckless". The government has a financial stake in more DUI citations, and this is getting crazy. Seriously.

Bubba, Maryland, May 14, 2013 at 1:35 p.m. (New York Times):
OK, once we have technology for monitoring BAC with built-in alcohol detectors, we will need to monitor for distracted driving (brain wave monitors and cell phone signal detectors), and sleepy driving (eyeball monitors). We will need to remove radios from all vehicles to eliminate the distraction. While we're at it, let's put governors on engines and limit maximum speed to 35 MPH. The vehicle computer should be networked with the DMV to make sure that the tire pressure is not too low and the brake pads are OK. Better yet, let's just ban all driving, so we can make it as safe as possible.

randcraw, Lansdale, PA May 14, 2013 at 12:58 p.m. (New York Times):
Why do we punish drivers who *might* cause harm rather than those who *do* cause harm? The problem isn't drunk driving. It's drunk crashing. Let's double up on prosecuting and penalizing the latter and lighten up on the former.

Seamus • an hour ago (CNN):
Drinking and driving is a huge revenue generator for all law enforcement in every county and state that has roads. Decreasing the threshold will simply increase this revenue generation, and it will increase additional revenue by allowing patrol officers a lower limit on both reasonable cause, probably cause, and search and seizure. This will be a boom for law enforcement coffers...

Robo • 5 hours ago (CNN):

Texting While Driving causes
1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts
4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents

Texting While Driving Is:

1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated
2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers

Texting While Driving:

1. Makes you 23X more likely to crash – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
2. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – VA. Tech Transportation Institute
3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country
4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – HumanFactors & Ergonomics Society
5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road

And yet somehow it's only $100 fine.


  1. I'm with randcraw, deal harshly with those drunk-crash. Why bother those have not done anything?