FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) – Drunk drivers kill 10,000 people every year according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Arkansas State Police say 135 people died in Arkansas in 2014 alone.
Now, the NTSB is calling on lawmakers across the country to adopt a proposal lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration level.
The last time the NTSB proposed a change to the legal blood alcohol concentration level was in 1999. It went from .10 to what we have today, .08.
Now the organization wants to lower it to even more to .05.
“The average drinker is going to have to quit drinking any amount and driving,” says Doug Norwood, a DWI attorney.
He says the NTSB’s proposal to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration limit from .08 to .05 will be one the lawyers will ‘get rich’ off of.
It would also mean he’s defending some drivers who he says may not actually be impaired.
“Most people, if they just drink a few drinks, just two or three drinks, they’re going to get to that .05 level,” Norwood continues.
The NTSB’s proposal comes after nearly 15 years of data suggesting one-third of highway deaths involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
“At .05, that’s where we see a significant increase in crash risks,” said Bella Dinh-Zarr, Vice Chairman of NTSB. “What we’re really saying is people just need to have a plan.”
NTSB officials say the AAA foundation found that 63 percent of Americans support lowering the BAC level to .05.
When drinkers get to that .05 level, Norwood doesn’t think most are actually impaired.
“They’re not going to be able to detect these people because most people are not going to fail the field of sobriety test at .05,” he says.
With another method used to track impaired drivers, a portable breathalyzer, results are inadmissible in court.
“There is never really an exact science, it’s a more of a probability,” adds Sgt. Craig Stout with the Fayetteville Police Department.
Sergeant Stout says the field of sobriety test only gives an estimate, much like figuring out how much is ‘too’ much.
“There is no magic formula there that is going to help anyone out,” he adds.
Norwood says “my advice to everybody always is to never drink and drive, even if you’ve had any amount of alcohol.”
It’s important to remember this is just a proposal and a set of recommendations. NTSB officials say it would be up to each state to adopt it into law.