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Drunk driving: Federal call to lower legal limit raises questions

For many people, it may be hard to tell where the line is between legal sobriety and going over the limit when they are deciding whether or not to drive. Everyone is affected by alcohol differently. For some, a two beers could send them over .08 percent, and others could be fine with three drinks. However, a suggested change to Maryland’s drunk driving laws could only add more confusion to the mix.

The National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended that the .08 blood-alcohol concentration standard should be lowered to .05 percent. The hope is that this would deter people from drunk driving in the interest of public safety.

At this point, there is no indication that Maryland lawmakers are eager to adopt a reduction of the threshold for driving under the influence charges. In fact, it took many years for our state to adopt the shift from .10 to .08 percent in 2001, which was “just three years before 0.08 became enacted by every state.” Since that time, there have been calls to lower the standard even further, but no action has been taken.

Even though, the NTSB is standing behind their recommendation, some observers have raised concerns about the consequences of dropping the legal limit for DUI so dramatically. They point out that the current standard has worked for the state.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, an average-sized male would hit the new .05 percent legal limit by drinking three beers in an hour. Although this might seem like a reliable measure, it’s hard to gauge intoxication levels from person to person — even day to day. So many factors affect blood-alcohol concentration that a person who is trying to be cautious could wind up being arrested on DUI charges and facing serious consequences.

Until Maryland officials make further comment on the NTSB’s suggestion, it’s time to ask: Is it wise to lower the legal limit even further?

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Federal agency says lowering legal limit could cut DUI deaths,” Candy Thomson, May 14, 2013

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