In an effort to reduce the number of alcohol-impaired driving crashes, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a set of recommendations, 19 in total, calling for more stringent laws and enforcement. "Most Americans think that we've solved the problem of impaired driving, but in fact, it's still a national epidemic," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "On average, every hour one person is killed and 20 more are injured."

The most controversial of the recommendations has to do with the blood-alcohol level (BAC) that consitutes being legally drunk behind the wheel. As of today, all states consider the BAC threshold to be a limit of 0.08, but the NTSB is calling for it to be lowered to 0.05 (the agency points out that over 100 countries on six continents have BAC limits set at 0.05 or lower). The NTSB estimates that nearly 1,000 lives would be saved by the change.

In other recommendations, the NTSB has called for police to use passive alcohol sensors to help better detect alcohol vapor in the ambient environment, and it is suggesting giving authorities the power to immediately suspend or revoke driver's licenses at the time of DWI. It also maintains that states should employ measures to improve interlock compliance. To read the rest, check out the full press release below.
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Today that National Transportation Safety Board released a bold set of targeted interventions to put the country on a course to eliminate alcohol-impaired driving crashes. The 19 recommendations call for stronger laws, swifter enforcement and expanded use of technology.

"Most Americans think that we've solved the problem of impaired driving, but in fact, it's still a national epidemic," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "On average, every hour one person is killed and 20 more are injured."

Each year in the United States, nearly 10,000 people are killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers and more than 173,000 are injured, with 27,000 suffer incapacitating injuries. Since the mid-1990s, even as total highway fatalities have fallen, the proportion of deaths from accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver has remained constant at around 30 percent. In the last 30 years, nearly 440,000 people have died in alcohol related crashes.

Today, investigators cited research that showed that although impairment begins with the first drink, by 0.05 BAC, most drivers experience a decline in both cognitive and visual functions, which significantly increases the risk of a serious crash. Currently, over 100 countries on six continents have BAC limits set at 0.05 or lower. The NTSB has asked all 50 states to do the same.

"The research clearly shows that drivers with a BAC above 0.05 are impaired and at a significantly greater risk of being involved in a crash where someone is killed or injured," said Hersman.

Among the other findings, investigators said that high-visibility enforcement efforts, such as sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols paired with media campaigns, deter alcohol-impaired driving. And to increase the effectiveness of these programs, the NTSB recommended that police use passive alcohol sensors to help better detect alcohol vapor in the ambient environment.

The NTSB, which in December 2012 recommended that states require ignition interlocks for all DWI offenders, said that because only about one in four offenders ordered to have an interlock actually have one installed, states should employ measures to improve interlock compliance.

Further, the Board said that an intervention known as administrative license suspension, which allows law enforcement authorities to immediately suspend or revoke a driver's license at the time of a DWI arrest, would be more effective if states required offenders to have an ignition interlock on their vehicles before licenses could be fully reinstated.

The NTSB recognized the effectiveness of specialized state DWI courts in addressing the particular challenges represented by repeat offenders. DWI courts hold offenders accountable through intensive monitoring, treatment for underlying disorders, alcohol testing and graduated sanctions. The NTSB recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assist states in maximizing their effectiveness by providing the courts with current best practices.

Over the past year, the NTSB sharpened its focus on impaired driving and has taken a number of actions, including issuing recommendations following a December 2012 special report on wrong-way driving. That report revealed that more than 60 percent of wrong-way crashes were caused by alcohol-impaired drivers. In May 2012, the Board hosted a forum on substance-impaired driving to understand how the latest research, technology, and countermeasures were being used by a range of advocacy groups as well as federal, state and local authorities to address substance-impaired driving.

Today, the NTSB issued 10 safety recommendations and reiterated nine others to NHTSA, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

"Alcohol-impaired crashes are not accidents," said Hersman. "They are crimes. They can – and should – be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will."


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  • 113 Comments
      Tiberius1701
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is great..soon I can get ready to go out, gargle with Listerine or Scope and get popped for over the limit. (semi-sarcasm intended)
        Israel Isassi
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tiberius1701
        if you're gonna do the time you might as well do it right.. Rumor has it that there is bacon flavored Scope on the market.
          Dwight Bynum Jr.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Israel Isassi
          ^ That was an April Fools joke from Procter & Gamble. :)
          Israel Isassi
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Israel Isassi
          Darn.. Life would be so grand with such a product.
        XJ Yamaha
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tiberius1701
        Your mouth cleans itself out every 10 minutes or so. Use mouthwash, wait 10 minutes, and the traces will be gone. You get pulled over and by the time the cop goes back to his car and runs your info the traces Listerine will more than likely have been gone.
      Judah Richardson
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Since the mid-1990s, even as total highway fatalities have fallen, the proportion of deaths from accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver has remained constant at around 30 percent." - ? In other words, drunk driving deaths have fallen at the same rate as total highway fatalities. Translation: there's no real problem to solve here, we're just trying to make life more difficult for people.
      Vinuuz
      • 1 Year Ago
      As in several other things,t he government and lawmakers are trying to solve the right problem by using the wrong means, the means that will get the most publicity.
      Feurig
      • 1 Year Ago
      Do people get stopped often where their BAC is between .05 and .08 and get let go? It seems to me that unless they are driving like their impaired, they probably won't be stopped.
      jay4e
      • 1 Year Ago
      so do these "ambient detectors" differentiate between types of alcohol? Say like alcohol from wipes or cleaning products?
      ShutoSteve
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow... ... Haven't seen a Caprice cop car in about 15 years.
      Friedduck
      • 1 Year Ago
      If it were about safety they'd outlaw cell phones and other distractions first. They've been shown over & over again to be equivalent to being drunk (at the current standard) or worse. Hell I'm more afraid of people I see not paying ANY attention to where they're going than I am someone who's had 2 glasses of wine.
      Knox
      • 1 Year Ago
      The concern I have with lowering the BAC level has to do with the accuracy of a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer isn't the basis for conviction, but it is the basis for arrest. In order to avoid arrest, you have to keep your BAC below the error rate of the breathalyzer. Some have said that for 0.05 you are safe with three beers an hour. But, in reality, you'd better not drink more than two.
      Bryant Keith
      • 1 Year Ago
      Are you kidding me? Save a thousand lives? I bet if you made the New York soda law national it would save 1,000 lives a month in obesity related deaths. Another clear cut example of a Federal organisation that has far to much funding/time on their hands. Anyone else sick of having the federal government stick there nose in every aspect of a person life. I live in an area with some of the most strict drunk driving laws in the nation since the 1980s and DWIs per capita have only gone up.
      bonehead
      • 1 Year Ago
      Found some stats on alcohol related accidents. There is a lot of information in this pdf released by they nhtsa http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811385.pdf 56% of fatalities are from drivers over 0.15% BAC 21-24 age group had the highest percentage of fatalities. fatalities did occur in the range of 0.01-0.05 BAC but there is no data on fatalities among 0.0 BAC.
      justgoawaymad
      • 1 Year Ago
      The reality is people are learning and getting designated drivers. Soooo we need to make more revenue....lower the limit and start all over again! Such b/s, its not about safety its about money.
      brianXL
      • 1 Year Ago
      I take issue with their estimate that 1000 lives would be saved. How can they say that? Do they know how many people drink and drive daily and don\'t get caught? Changing the limit won\'t stop them. I am not saying we shouldn\'t have laws, but changing the limit to .05 won\'t do squat to save any lives. I don\'t think the problem is the people driving around at .06.
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