NTSP Proposes Lowering BAC Limit for Drunk Drivers to 0.05%, Potentially Affecting Massachusetts Residents

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Drunk driving is one of the highest causes of injuries and fatalities in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), roughly 30 people die each day in a motor vehicle collision that involves an intoxicated driver. Also, the estimated yearly costs associated with alcohol-induced car accidents totals nearly $60 million. In 2013, drunk driving accidents accounted for 31 percent of traffic accident fatalities that occurred in the United States. The National Highway Transportation Administration has also issued a number of studies and reports highlighting the dangers that result when alcohol and driving are mixed.

Recently, the National Transportation and Safety Board (“NTSB”) has recommended lowering the legal blood alcohol content to 0.05 percent from 0.08 percent. The NTSB’s recommendation is intended to help combat these devastating injury and death tolls associated with drunk driving across the United States.

The federal government does not possess the authority to regulate how Massachusetts creates and imposes drunk driving laws. Congress can, however, condition the provision of funding to Massachusetts or any state for highway maintenance and construction on the state’s agreement to impose a certain BAC level.

Legal authorities have indicated that a transition from the NTSB’s former recommendation of 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent would likely increase the number of drivers charged with drunk driving. If Massachusetts heeds the NTSB’s advice, it would likely create new opportunities for victims involved in alcohol-related crashes to hold a drunk driver responsible for the injuries and damages.

According to Massachusetts law, operating under the influence (“OUI”) is considered a serious offense carrying penalties and potential jail time.  To determine whether a motorist is operating under the influence, Massachusetts relies on the driver’s blood alcohol content (“BAC”), which is calculated by using a breathalyzer machine or by extracting a blood sample. For any driver 21 years or older, the maximum BAC in Massachusetts is 0.08 percent. For drivers operating commercial vehicles over the age of 21, the maximum BAC is 0.04 percent. For drivers under the age of 21, the maximum BAC is 0.02 percent.

To help drivers understand the impact of the new recommendation, NTSB has provided calculations illustrating how many drinks it would take for a 160-pound male to reach an estimated BAC of 0.05 percent. NTSB indicates that the consumption of three drinks within a one-hour time frame would likely result in a BAC of 0.05 percent. The study used a four-ounce glass of wine, a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor, and a 12-ounce beer as the definition of “a drink.”

In response to the NTSB’s announcement, the CDC reports that it would take an average 160-pound man around four drinks during one hour to reach a BAC of 0.08 percent. These studies highlight just how quickly a few beers or cocktails at a happy hour can turn into an incredibly dangerous situation.

If you someone you know has suffered injuries in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we have handled numerous motor vehicle accident cases, including those involving intoxicated drivers. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about the scope of your rights, so call us now at 1-800-446-4485 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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