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NTSB recommends more stringent drunk driving standards

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board has issued new blood alcohol content recommendations that, if adopted, could affect many New York state drivers. The lower standard limit is aimed at curbing the number of alcohol-related automobile deaths in the United States, estimated to be around 10,000 every year. In the words of the NTSB Chairman, drunk driving is a 'national epidemic."

The NTSB recommends that the threshold for driving while intoxicated be lowered to a blood alcohol content level of .05. Currently, the standard in New York for driving while intoxicated is a BAC level of .08 or below. While there are multiple factors that contribute to a person's blood alcohol content level, it will generally take a 180-pound male four drinks within an hour to reach the current legal limit. Under the new recommended limit, the number of drinks drops to just two or three within an hour.

The Board also recommends that laws be implemented that allow police to act more quickly in confiscating offenders' licenses in addition to ignition locks for first time offenders, which prevent a car from starting without a breath sample. Critics attacked the recommendations on the grounds that they would direct enforcement away from repeat offenders; additionally, it was pointed out that under the new standard, some individuals could be penalized for having only one drink.

If the NTSB's recommendations sway legislators to revise current laws regarding the BAC threshold in New York, many drivers could find themselves targets for increasingly aggressive enforcement of DWI laws. Criminal defense attorneys may consider whether or not law enforcement adhered to strict protocols for administering sobriety checks or examine whether they had probable cause to stop a motorist on suspicion of DWI when the signs of impairment may not be so apparent in order to construct a solid defense for drivers accused of DWI.

Source: CNN, "Tougher drunk-driving threshold proposed to reduce traffic deaths", Mike Ahlers, May 15, 2013

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Glenn R. Bruno, Esq.