What the Anti .05 DUI Limit Crowd Gets Wrong
It didn’t take long for the backlash to start. After the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report recommending that the legal limit for intoxication be lowered from .08 percent BAC (blood alcohol concentration) to.05, the objections started. This despite the Academies’ findings that countries which have adopted the lower limit have successfully lowered DUI collision rates.
The objections are easy to poke holes in:
Objection 1: The real problem is high-BAC drinkers. Alcohol interest groups claim that the .05 limit will do “nothing to deter” repeat offenders and high-BAC drivers. Those whose livelihood depends on alcohol sales are protective of their less-committed customers, who can perhaps be more easily persuaded to skip that second beer on a night out. But the issue is whether or not .05 is impairment, not whether it will deter high-BAC drinkers.
Objection 2: Driving at .05 is not as dangerous as texting while driving. Everyone loves to bring up the dangers of texting while driving as if anti-drunk driving laws were somehow hindering the effort to prevent distracted driving. Yes, distracted driving is a danger, and we should favor laws that can reduce it. But that’s irrelevant to this argument – a case of “whataboutism” that should be ignored.
Objection 3: It will drive up costs. The total cost of drunk driving crashes in 2010 was 121.5 billion, according to the Academies’ report. It also notes that rural areas are disproportionately affected by alcohol-related crashes. The law will bring down that cost.
Also, people tend to think that the general populace wont adapt to the .05 DUI limit, and will go out drunk driving and get arrested and arraigned in droves. In truth, responsible people will drink less before driving, and the landscape won’t look different once people get used to it. People made a fuss about seat belts too.
Objection 4: Some people will be over the limit after just one drink. True enough – some people are unable to drive a car safely after one drink. People’s constitutions differ, and that’s the reason that we use BAC as the standard. If it takes a certain person less alcohol to reach impairment, should that person be allowed to drive drunk anyway as a consolation prize? Think, people.
It’s Not Just Fatalities
One of the biggest mistakes that anti-lower-limit activists make is their claim that the majority of alcohol-related fatalities are caused by high-BAC (.15 or above) drivers who won’t be affected by a lower limit.
Not all drunk driving crashes end in death. Every day about 800 people are injured in a drunk driving crash. Some of those injuries are permanent and life-altering. It’s neither fair nor wise to discount the people who are injured by this senseless crime – about 30 times the number killed.
It’s a long way from the recommendation of a science panel – even one as august as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – and adoption of the .05 DUI limit by states. But if the report keeps the topic in public forums, then maybe the country is closer to adopting a saner limit, as so many other countries have done around the world.