States May Lower Blood Alcohol Level to 0.05% for DWI
In all 50 states, the current standard of a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 for drivers aged 21 and over is the legal DWI limit. However, that is subject to change if the National Transportation Safety Board has its way. Last week the NTSB recommended that the blood alcohol level be lowered to 0.05%. NTSB Chairman, Deborah Hersman stated “This is critical because impaired driving remains one of the biggest killers in the United States”. However, the American Beverage Institute points out that over 70% of drunk-driving fatalities are caused by drivers with at least 0.15% blood alcohol level. The legal limit was 0.15% just a few decades ago when several states started lowering the limit, to 0.12% and 0.10%. In October, 2004 at the risk of losing federal highway construction funds the limit was lowered to 0.08%. The current BAC in New Jersey is 0.08%.
At this point, however, no legislation has been introduced to lower the legal limit to 0.05% but it is expected that pressure will mount to do so based on the NTSB’s recommendation.
BAC levels include many variables such as a person’s weight and consumption of food but generally a woman would be limited to one or possibly two drinks during the first hour and a man, two to three drinks in an hour to see their levels rise above 0.05%.
More than 100 countries already have the 0.05 limit. The NTSB has launched a “Reaching Zero” campaign to increase public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.
While the current BAC in New Jersey is 0.08%. the New Jersey Legislature has introduced several bills that call for stronger penalties for DWI. One of those bills would eliminate the downgrade of a DWI if it occurs at least 10 years after a previous conviction as well as a permanent license suspension after a third DWI conviction. New Jersey law provides for a 10-year step-down of the most recent offense occurred more than 10 years after the last DWI offense. For example, a second offender would receive first offender penalties if the second offense happened more than 10 years after the first offense.