The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a report this month containing various recommendations for policy changes in the sphere of drunk driving. Topping this list was the suggestion to lower the legal limit from .08 to .05. This is nothing new. A potential shift to a .05 limit has been a topic of conversation and contention in the country since Utah passed a .05 limit in 2017 (although it will not take effect until December 2018). Lawmakers in other states have weighed the possibility, while some groups have heatedly contested the notion of lowering the limit.
After Utah's switch, the American Beverage Institute (ABI) began campaigns in Utah's neighboring states, aiming to discourage tourism in the state. In an attempt to malign the stringency of the .05 limit, one campaign in Idaho implied that if an individual vacationed in Utah, they risked 'bringing home' a DUI conviction. ("Come for vacation, leave on probation.")
Conflicting Statistics on the Legal Limit
The conversation surrounding the .05 limit seems to be a war of conflicting statistics. The American Beverage Institute posited an interesting, statistically-based argument challenging the credibility of the new law. Citing two studies done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the ABI claimed that criminalizing a .05 BAC was akin to criminalizing drivers 65 or older getting behind the wheel at all. A 2016 NHTSA study stated that drivers 65 and older are 2.59 times more likely to get in a car crash.
By contrast, a report released in 1997 stated that drivers with a BAC of .05 were just 2.03 times more likely to get into a car crash. A spokesman for the NHTSA insisted that information contained in the latter report was old and the research had not been repeated. Many lawmakers over the age of 65 were quick to criticize the ad that presented this claim. Utah Rep. Lowry Snow told KSL news: "[The ad] is insinuating that people who are over the age of 65 are incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely, and that's offensive," adding that it "lacked class."
The recent report released by the various national academies is at odds with the findings of the ABI and others who oppose the .05 limit. Among other things, the report found that since 1982, roughly one-third of all traffic fatalities were due to alcohol-impaired driving. However, some have already disputed the accuracy of this statistic.
It has been argued that a more stringent .05 limit will simply cast a wider net for law enforcement to convict drivers, even those who pose a relatively minimal, if not entirely negligible, threat on roadways. Michele Corigliano, Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association Executive Director, told Fox News, “What [the new limit] does is it puts a lot of focus on responsible drinkers, instead of putting focus on the truly dangerous drivers, which are the higher blood alcohol content drivers: 0.11 and above. That's where the danger is. Not under .08.”
If the .05 limit were to become the national standard, it is entirely possible that this will lead to an influx of responsible drinkers being charged with a first time DUI. This could derail the lives and careers of otherwise upstanding citizens while having little to no effect on those who drink to excess (far beyond .08) and get behind the wheel. No matter what becomes of the DUI legal landscape, you will still be able to hire a Fulton County DUI attorney to defend your rights if you are charged with driving under the influence. If you have been charged with DUI in Fulton County, contact a Fulton County DUI attorney online or call 404-816-4440. Phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.