Santa Cruz Good Times

Feb 12th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Lowering Blood Alcohol Level Could Save Lives

col balBy Lars Shallberg, Surf City Criminal Defense

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 31% of automobile fatalities are caused by alcohol impairment, which translates into over ten thousand lives lost a year. In an effort to decrease such deaths, the NTSB supports a proposal to lower the blood alcohol level from .08 to .05. Research shows that most people experience a decline in both cognitive and visual functions related to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.05.


Research from other countries shows that dropping the blood alcohol level does, in fact, decrease traffic fatalities. Over 100 countries already have limits of 0.05 percent, including much of Europe, South America and Australia. When Australia dropped its blood alcohol level to 0.05 percent, there was a 5 percent to 18 percent drop in traffic deaths, according to the NTSB. Lowering the rate to 0.05 would save about 500 to 800 lives annually in the U.S., the safety board said.

Past efforts to reduce the blood alcohol level in the United States had positive results. In the 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Driving fought to reduce the blood alcohol level from .15 to .08.  By 2004, all states had adopted that standard. The NTSB reported the number of alcohol-related highway fatalities dropped from 20,000 in 1980 to less than 10,000 in 2011.

Lowering the blood alcohol limit makes a difference, according to James Fell, senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Alcohol, Policy and Safety Research Center in Calverton, Md., because when the lower limit is publicized people either stop drinking and driving or have fewer drinks before they drive, which will save almost a thousand lives a year.

Interestingly, however, there seems to be a dis-connect between when people believe driving impairment begins and the current blood alcohol level standard. When surveyed, Fell said, every age group when asked at what point they thought driving impairment began responded, "Two drinks." However, research indicates that the average male typically would hit the 0.08 threshold after four drinks over an hour on an empty stomach, he said. “For most people (with food), they wouldn’t even reach 0.05 after two or three drinks.”

The California Vehicle Code encompasses both the driver’s blood alcohol level and the level of impairment. California Vehicle Code section 23152(a) states, "It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, to drive a vehicle. California Vehicle Code section 23152(b) states, "It is unlawful for any person who has a 0.08% or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle." Punishments can vary depending on code the driver is found guilty of violating.

If you have a DUI case, make sure you secure the services of a seasoned professional to protect your rights and defend your case. Contact me for a free consultation at (831)-535-2363 or visit today.


Tags: Sponsored column, criminal defense, dui, drunk driving, santa cruz, blood alcohol level, santa cruz, Lars Shallberg, Surf City Criminal Defense