A few years back the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a recommendation that all states drop the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels from 0.08 to 0.05. They did so because having a lower BAC would be another deterrent to drunk drivers. Although the recommendation has been largely ignored over the years, there are signs that states could be getting on board with a lower BAC.
Washington state lawmakers are discussing Bill 1874; a possible new law that would require Washington state to drop the legal BAC from 0.08 to 0.05. That means that every drunk driver stopped with a 0.05 BAC would be charged for drunk driving in exact the same way that they would be charged if they were stopped with a 0.08 right now.
In Washington state that means possible jail time, fines, driver’s license suspension, and an ignition interlock installation in any vehicle you drive.
Washington isn’t the only state considering switching to a lower BAC to keep drunk drivers on the curb. The House of Representatives in Utah have also been considering lowering the limit to catch more drunk drivers. Critics of the proposed law have argued that changing the BAC would result in a lot of people arrested for drunk driving when they might not be that drunk at all, and that might be a valid concern except for one fact: research has shown that any amount of alcohol has the power to affect your driving skills.
Another reason why lawmakers are starting to look at lower BAC levels to charge drunk drivers? They are starting to see a real surge in drugged drivers and drivers who mix both drugs and alcohol. Although that drivers’ BAC might register below the legal limit, the combination of the two could result in that person being too impaired to drive.
What Utah and Washington state are trying to do is get a point across, and that point is that you shouldn’t drink and drive at all. Just because you’re stopped for suspected drunk driving and you only blow 0.06 on the breathalyzer doesn’t mean you’re sober enough to drive, and that 0.08 level shouldn’t be a magic number where you can drive away free and clear either.
Both bills are currently in debate, so we will soon see if 2017 will be the beginning of a trend to lower the BAC.