NTSB wants drunken driving limit lowered to .05
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The National Transportation Safety Board said today it wants all states to lower the drunk driving limit to .05. It's all in an effort to keep impaired drivers off the road but the recommendation is getting mixed reviews.
The National Transportation Safety Board says in the last 30 years nearly 440,000 people have been killed in alcohol related crashes. That's one person killed and 20 hurt every hour on average and it believes those crashes are preventable.
The NTSB released a 100 page report saying it wants to drop the blood alcohol level for drunk driving from .08 to .05. To put that in perspective .05 equals one drink for a woman weighing 120 pounds and one stiff martini or about two beers for a 160 pound man.
"One drink and you're in jail, or one drink and you're a criminal is not a good thing," said Roger Morey, Hawaii Restaurant Association Executive Director.
The Hawaii Restaurant Association strongly opposes the recommendation saying it would have a dramatic effect on businesses.
"One drink and you have to stop. Think of the effect that would have on the restaurant industry. Think of the effect it would have on your family party. There is nothing wrong with alcohol. It's only wrong when you abuse it," said Morey.
There are already about 7,300 people a year busted for DUI in Hawaii. That number is sure to go up if the legal limit is lowered.
"They can't arrest many more people than they are already doing. The courts are full. There is a backlog in Honolulu for your trial four or five months now," said Paul Cunney, Attorney.
Paul Cunney was on the task force that brought the legal limit in Hawaii down to .08 in 1995. He has 40 years of experience prosecuting and defending, among others, drunk drivers.
"I don't think you can legislate people's habits to such a point where they aren't going to have a social life," said Cunney.
Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving is not taking a stance on the recommendation. Instead it is focusing on things like ignition interlocks, sobriety checkpoints and even working with car manufactures to have alcohol sensing devices in every vehicle.
"Madd believes we should stay with the things we're working on right now. We can't talk about the future, but I don't see this happening in the foreseeable future," said Carol McNamee, Madd Hawaii Founder. "It's not what we think is a reasonable thing to do at this point. We have other things that are very effective."
Madd agrees impairment starts with the first drink and commends the NTSB for starting the conversation. But McNamee was in Washington working on the federal .08 law change which eventually was signed by President Clinton in 2000 and would be difficult to duplicate.
"It was a really hard fight," said McNamee.
"Life in America is a little bit different. The way our country was formed on personal freedoms, personal initiatives, the government can go just so far before there is push back," said Morey.
The NTSB says 100 countries around the world already have blood alcohol levels at .05 or less. It can't force states to do the same, but it may be able to leverage federal funding to get states to respond.
The Honolulu Police Department says it supports all traffic measures that will reduce injuries and save lives.
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