Science panel backs lower drunken driving threshold
Washington – Most women would need to draw the line at two drinks, and men at two or three if states follow a blueprint by a prestigious scientific panel for eliminating the “entirely preventable” 10,000 alcohol-impaired driving deaths in the United States each year.
The U.S. government-commissioned report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine made multiple recommendations, including significantly lowering drunken driving thresholds. It calls for lowering the blood-alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05. All states have 0.08 thresholds. A Utah law passed last year that lowers the state’s threshold to 0.05 doesn’t go into effect until Dec. 30.
The amount of alcohol required to reach 0.05 would depend on several factors, including the person’s size and whether the person has recently eaten. The report cites studies indicating most women over 120 pounds would reach 0.05 after two drinks. Men weighing up to about 160 pounds would likely reach the lower threshold at two, and those over 180 pounds at three.
The panel, in its 489-page report, also recommended that states significantly increase alcohol taxes and make alcohol less conveniently available, including reducing the hours and days alcohol is sold in stores, bars and restaurants. Research suggests a doubling of alcohol taxes could lead to an 11 percent reduction in traffic crash deaths, the report said.
It also calls for cracking down on sales to people under 21 or who are already intoxicated to discourage binge drinking, and putting limits on alcohol marketing while funding anti-alcohol campaigns.
All the proposals are likely to draw fierce opposition from the alcohol and restaurant industries.
The recommendation in the academies’ report for lowering the blood-alcohol threshold would “do nothing to deter” repeat offenders and drivers with high blood-alcohol levels, who represent the “vast majority” of alcohol-impaired driving deaths, the Distilled Spirits Council said in a statement.