I was interviewed yesterday by Stephen Mayer of KCTV 5 regarding the NTSB's recent recommendation to drop the legal limit from .08 to .05. I encourage you to read the story. www.kctv5.com/story/22255873/tougher-drunken-driving-threshold-recommended. I spent some more time reading the NTSB story from several sources after my interview, and I was struck by their reasoning. The NTSB indicates that Highway Fatalities have dropped dramatically from 1988 to now, and they attribute that to lowering the legal limit or BAC (Blood or Breath alcohol content). However, they don't mention whether the average BAC in these DUI fatalities has also decreased during this period of time. I suspect it has not decreased. Most DUI's come in between a .12 and a .18, and I suspect that will continue. The BAC average may have actually gone up with the elimination of 3.2 beer for 18 year olds and the introduction of stronger craft beer that we didn't have in the 80's. The question is what caused the drop in fatalities? I suspect the folks at Freakonomics would say its something else: safer cars and awareness. In 1988, not everyone wore seat belts, older used cars didn't have shoulder harnesses, and no one had airbags. In addition, engines are now designed to push away from the driver in a head-on collision, airbags on all sides are now standard, and we have intelligent cars with computers that aid us with stability and traction control. Even the roads are safer with greater illumination, new jersey barriers between opposing directions of travel, and hiccup divots on the side of the road to wake up drunk and non-drunk drivers. In the end, I think the greatest impact of lowering the legal limit to .05 will be this: More people will refuse to give a breath test when arrested for
DUI for fear they are .05, and consequently less people will learn from their mistake. And isn't that what we want? To have people learn from their mistakes and not repeat them? The government should give more thought to the Carrot and Stick approach when then want to change behavior. Tougher laws are not always the answer to our problems. Sometimes, we just need a little more awareness and education. But lately, it just seems like the government wants to give us more Stick. thanks for reading, Paul W. Burmaster. If you've been involved in any sort of DUI accident or have recently been arrested, pick up the phone and call my office today.