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NTSB pushes states to lower BAC limit to .05

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | DUI

The National Transportation Safety Board, also known as the NTSB, has caused some stir among the American public amid its recent recommendation and announcement. The agency has advised all states enact a .05 BAC driving limit-a much stricter mandate from the current .08 BAC limit.

The recommendations, however, have not been taken lightly and some cite negative repercussions of the proposal.

The recommendation

The NTSB is a federal government agency that investigates national transportation accidents. The agency also provides safety recommendations to states and various entities like auto manufacturers.

The latest recommendation involves the blood alcohol content, or BAC, driving limit for drivers in the U.S. The board says a lower threshold from the current .08 BAC is needed to combat the rising number of drunk driving accidents.

The board points to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that shows thousands of lives would be saved if a BAC of .05 or less were implemented across the country.

They tout the .05 BAC limit enacted by 100 other countries worldwide as an additional reason why it should be done in the United States.

Skeptics of the .05 BAC proposal

But many people are skeptical and question the real reasons behind the proposal. Some indicate the motivations of the NTSB are strictly financial. They point to a previous NTSB proposal that recommended states require every DUI offender install an ignition interlock device-a device that would coincidentally boost revenue a great deal (approximately $100 per device plus administration maintenance costs) for state and local municipalities. The new proposal, they say, aims to do the same.

Others argue that lowering this amount will simply end up punishing responsible adult drinkers. Those who have a glass of wine while eating out at a restaurant, for instance, would no longer be able to under the .05 BAC limit. (A female weighing around 120 pounds would only be able to have one drink-a beverage considered 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces or wine or 1 ounce of 80-proof alcohol.)


Some states aren’t expected to fully embrace the board’s recommendation and aren’t likely to immediately introduce a new bill changing the BAC limit.

According to an official with the Governors Highway Safety Association, “an alcohol concentration threshold of .05 is likely to meet strong resistance from states.” Most states, he says, tend to focus on repeat offenders or those soaring BAC limits, not necessarily on first-time offenders who have had just one alcoholic beverage.

The urge to combat drunk driving related accidents is understandable. However, approaches such as reducing the already low BAC limit may not be the best way.