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Research panel urges states to reduce DUI limit to 0.05 percent

How can society reduce the number of drunk-driving fatalities? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was looking for evidence-based answers, so it turned to a panel from the nonprofit National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and commissioned a report. That report is in, and one of the key recommendations was for states to reduce their DUI threshold level from a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent to 0.05.

If you think that will never happen, consider that it's already the law in over 100 countries, including most of Europe. Moreover, Utah just lowered its BAC limit to 0.05 and that law will go into effect on Dec. 30.

How would a lower DUI threshold affect you?

It would probably reduce the amount you can legally drink before driving by at least one drink. It's hard to say for certain because alcohol affects people differently. The degree of intoxication you experience depends on a variety of factors, including the size and potency of the drinks, your weight and gender, your metabolism, whether you've eaten, whether you're taking certain medications and others.

According to the Associated Press, an average 120-pound woman or an average 160-pound man could reach 0.05 percent after two drinks. An average man would have to weigh about 180 pounds before he could have a third drink and remain under 0.05.

Other recommendations by the panel

The National Academies panel made several additional recommendations, such as:

  • Discouraging binge drinking by cracking down on sales to intoxicated people
  • Cracking down on under-21 sales
  • Significantly increasing taxes on alcohol
  • Reducing the hours and days that stores, restaurants and bars could sell alcohol
  • Funding anti-alcohol campaigns like those done to oppose smoking

According to some research, doubling alcohol taxes could reduce DUI-related traffic fatalities by 11 percent.

Opposition to the proposals

The alcoholic beverage and restaurant industries oppose these recommendations, especially lowering the DUI threshold to 0.05.They argue that most of the proposals would have no effect on repeat offenders and high-BAC drivers, who make up a substantial proportion of those arrested for DUI. Additionally, the industry group Distilled Spirits Council said that "tax increases and advertising bans, which will have little or no impact on traffic safety."

Whatever your view of the proposal, it's quite possible that Colorado will adopt a lower DUI threshold in the future. That change could very well mean lots of additional DUI arrests. The best way to avoid a DUI arrest is to avoid drinking and driving. If you find yourself arrested, however, you owe it to yourself to hire an experienced DUI lawyer to protect your rights.

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