Over the years laws change and evolve. These changes occurs for a variety of reasons such as when new information is discovered, the law has become outdated, or for political reasons. Recently the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has proposed changing one of the laws concerning drink and driving. In February, the NTSB recommended reducing the current legal blood alcohol level.
Since the beginning of the era of motor vehicles, drivers have gotten behind the wheel after having just one too many drinks. Even in these early days, a driver could be charged if he or she was found to be drunk and driving, though the penalties for doing so were not nearly as severe as they are today. The very first driver ever to be arrested for driving under the influence was a London cab driver named George Smith. According to the Morning Post, a newspaper at the time, on September 10, 1897, a police-constable saw Smith's car swerve and then crash into a building, "breaking the water-pipe and beading of the window." When the officer approached the car, he saw that Smith was drunk and took him to the police station. Though Smith initially denied being intoxicated, he was ultimately fined 20 shillings for the offense.
The very first law prohibiting drunk driving was passed in the United States less than 10 years later. New Jersey first prohibited the act in 1906. Though these early laws "made it illegal to drive while intoxicated [they] did not provide a statistical definition of intoxication." Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. ___ (2016). As the number of vehicles on the roads grew, so did the number of drunk drivers. To combat this growing problem, "the American Medical Association and the National Safety Council set up committees to study the problem and ultimately concluded that a driver with a BAC of 0.15% or higher could be presumed to be inebriated." Indiana was the first state to enact a law that presumed intoxication when a driver had a BAC of .015% or more, and other states soon followed suit. This presumption was later lowered to .12%, then to .10%, and finally to the standard we have nowadays of .08%. This last change occurred in the year 2000 when Congress passed the 2001 Appropriations Act for the Department of Transportation. This act required states to pass a .08% per se law. If a state chose not to implement such a law by 2004, the state would have started to lose federal highway construction funds. All 50 states have since adopted this limit.
According to CNN, the NTSB again proposed this year to lower the legal BAC level so as to "deter more people from driving while intoxicated." The new limit that was proposed is.05% or possibly even lower. The Board has made this same proposal the last few years, but so far the idea hasn't gained much traction, even among advocacy groups like MADD.
It is important to note that in a number of states drivers can already get a DUI with a BAC of less than .08%. The .08% limit is the point at the law considers driver to be too intoxicated to be behind the wheel, regardless of how impaired the driver may actually be. However, a driver's BAC can be less than the per se level, such as .06%, and that driver can still be arrested and charged with DUI if a police officer thinks that the driver is too intoxicated to be behind the wheel. In Georgia, this is known as a DUI Less Safe.
If the proposed measure by the NTSB does start to pick up steam it's important that it only be adopted if it is based on scientific evidence of impairment, such as double-blind studies conducted that look at impaired driving at lower levels like .05%. For now, the per se level remains at .08%. If you or a loved one has been charged with a driving under the influence in Georgia, you want a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side. Contact Fulton County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today at (404) 816-4440.
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