The NTSB the transportation safety agency of the Federal Government is proposing to lower the legal limit for DUI to .05, as opposed to the .08 where it presently stands in all states including Maryland. Have no fear, it is highly unlikely this change will pass congress at this time substantially in light of the fact that Congress can’t agree on the color of the sky on beautiful sunny day. However, I imagine that the matter will continue to be brought up until one day it does pass Congress. You see, many other countries already use the .05 standard for impairment as the powers that be have conducted studies and feel that drivers begin to be impaired at this low level.
This proposed change is interesting on a number of levels. To begin with BAC level used to .15 for impairment and then the Government lowered it to .10 feeling that was the proper level for impairment and then changed it to .08. Interestingly, the Government appears to continue to do testing and the number for impairment continues to drop. Perhaps the alcohol level in drinks is getting stronger or perhaps alcohol in general is reacting differently to people then it did in the “old days”. Perhaps these are just arbitrary figures in the first place on the way to a .00 which ironically this DUI attorney feels should be the limit for driving.
You see, all these BAC numbers are arbitrary and what law enforcement does not tell you is that even with a .08 limit, if you blow a .05 at this time, you are still under arrest! They simply call in impaired as opposed to under the influence and most drivers are unaware of that. Most drivers wonder how they are being arrested on a .05 or .06 but it happens all the time.
The only way to take the arbitrariness out of the equation all together is to simply make a bright line for drivers to abide by and then everybody knows what the story is and how to stay out of trouble. Ie. If the limit was .00 then drivers know not to drink anything and you’re fine. However, when the limit is .08 or .05 what does that actually translate into? Can you have one drink? Can you have two drinks? Well, statistically, you can probably have two drinks under these models but the problem is if the police pull you over for any reason or no reason or a made up reason, once they smell alcohol on your breath your are getting popped and taken to the station. You see, law enforcement does have quotas they need to keep up with (just watch CNN to learn about the non-existant quotas on the news today). Anyway, even if you blow a low number like .05 or lower, you’re already at the station, an arrest has been made so your going to be charged with this crime and your going to have to defend yourself with a lawyer in court. Thus, in some respects it almost doesn’t matter what the legal BAC number is because whatever it is, its lower then the stated number. This method only hurts the uniformed driver who thought he was being lawful by driving at .04/.05.
Thus, lower the BAC limit all you want, it makes little difference, it is equally confusing and misleading. The only fair, clear and bright line approach to do is to set the limit at .00, at least drivers will know where they stand in that situation and can make an informed decision about drinking and driving.