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Feds consider lowering drunk driving threshold

WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) — The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board says it is considering advising states to reduce their drunken driving limits by more than one-third.

The NTSB can’t legally force states to adopt stricter limits on drunken driving enforcement but the federal agency’s input has considerable effect on state legislators. The new threshold would be 0.05 percent blood alcohol content, down from the present standard in all 50 states, 0.08 percent.

Federal officials note the tougher standard is the norm in most of the developed world.

While an individual’s blood alcohol content varies depending on an individual’s size, stomach content and other variables, generally speaking a man weighing 180 pounds could consume four alcoholic beverages in a span of 90 minutes and not meet the 0.08 threshold. A woman weighing 130 pounds could consume three drinks in 90 minutes and still be legal to drive.

Under the new guidelines, both men and women would have to curtail consumption of one drink each (three total for men, two for women) in the same 90 minute span to stay below the 0.05 percent threshold.

The measure is likely to face still opposition from the hospitality, brewery and distillery industries, who could face a substantial loss of business if the blood alcohol content limit is lowered, The New York Times said Tuesday.

“Moving from .08 to .05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” said Sarah Longwell, the managing director at the American Beverage Institute. “Further restriction of moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hard-core drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.”

States lowered their limits to 0.08 in 2000 after President Bill Clinton signed a law withholding federal transportation dollars from any state that didn’t lower its limit.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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