NTSB calls for lower drink driving limit

Motorists in Michigan and around the country are considered to be too impaired to drive when their blood alcohol level reaches .08 percent, but the National Transportation Safety Board is calling for the national legal driving limit to be lowered to .05 percent. The safety agency claims that a .05 percent limit would prevent countless accidents and save hundreds of lives each year, but the hospitality industry says that the measure would damage business and turn responsible individuals into criminals.

Those opposed to lower blood alcohol limits will find little support for their views in the laws of other nations. A .05 blood alcohol level is the legal limit in virtually all countries, and the United States, Iran and Canada are the only nations that allow drivers to have higher amounts of alcohol in their blood.

If the NTSB recommendation is adopted by lawmakers, consuming even small amounts of alcohol before getting behind the wheel could result in a drunk driving charge. A 180-pound man would be able to consume only two drinks before reaching a blood alcohol level of .05 percent, and a woman weighing 100 pounds or less would be at the limit after a single drink.

A lower blood alcohol limit could also lead to far more motorists being charged with driving under the influence because of misleading breath test results. The equipment used to determine a motorist's blood alcohol level is highly sophisticated, but criminal defense attorneys may challenge breath test results in certain situations. A number of medical conditions such as diabetes could cause false positive results due to elevated acetone levels in the breath, and even smoking tobacco or following a diet low in carbohydrates can confuse breath testing equipment.