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Comments on the proposed reduction in the legal limit for drunk driving offenses to .05

As a Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer, often an argument made at trial is that a motorist drank responsibly and only had one or two drinks with dinner. The proposed reduction of the presumptive legal limit would have potentially impose criminal penalties on those who drink responsibly. Fortunately, the proposal is not likely to be adopted.

The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB has recently recommended that states modify the legal limit of alcohol allowed while driving. This modification would mean that a driver would be considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol at a .05 blood alcohol content opposed to the current legal limit of .08. As a Massachusetts OUI attorney, it seems like this change would create a disadvantage to drivers and punish drivers who were once considered responsible.

The NTSB argues that this change is necessary to ensure the safety of the citizens. NTSB argues that alcohol related deaths are on the rise and this is the best way to stop it. Deborah Hersman, the chair of the NTSB states that a .05 blood alcohol content has been implemented as the legal limit in many nations which have safer roads and it is time for this change in America. One example of where NTSB believes the .08 legal limit seems unjust is the death of Sergeant Douglas Weddelton, a Massachusetts state trooper. While pulling someone over, Sergeant Weddelton was slammed into by a pickup truck and killed. The driver who hit him however only had a blood alcohol content of .07 and was not legally drunk.

The notion of lowering the standard of driving while intoxicated seems like an argument that would gain traction, especially by groups whose mission it is to eliminate drunk driving. However, this recommendation of the NTSB has failed to gain support even within those groups. Mothers Against Drunk Driving otherwise known as MADD is a group that is constantly in search for harsher penalties and other ways to reduce drunk driving. However, they do not even agree with this recommendation. MADD would like to focus on catching actual drunk drivers and protecting those who can be injured by them. Their group feels like this would do little to cut down on drunk driving and the focus should be on more officers, more road blocks and harsher penalties rather than punishing people who may not even be dangerous.

The National Highway Safety Administration is another group dedicated to reducing drunk driving, but they to have not supported this suggestion by NTSB. While both MADD and NHSA appreciate the efforts, it seems like this law will punish drivers who are actually being responsible. In a study by Johns Hopkins University, research concluded that it would take a man of 180 pounds 3 drinks in one hour to get to a .05 and a woman of 140 pounds only 2 drinks in one hour. Lowering the standard could mean people who are being responsible with their drinking could be found guilty of a crime according to the NHSA.

Lowering the legal limit for blood alcohol content could have bad effects and as it was said could lead to adults acting responsible to be subject to a crime. Furthermore, lowering the standard would likely lead to more faulty breathalyzer tests. This is because the presence of even a small amount of alcohol can cause a slightly high reading. With the standard lower, now these faulty readings of a small amount of alcohol would put the driver over the limit. Finally, it is important to note that not only people who drive with a .08 or higher can be arrested for drunk driving. If a police officer can show a driver was impaired under a .08, there can still be drunk driving. The only thing a .08 does is that it makes the presumption that the driver was impaired by the alcohol. For these reasons, the legal limit of alcohol should not be changed as it would create more problems than it solves.

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