Will the Legal Limit for DUI be Lowered to .05?
By Jonathan Blecher on February 10, 2023
Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of accidents and fatalities on the roads. Despite numerous campaigns, laws, and penalties, it remains a significant problem. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to lower the legal limit for intoxication from .08 to .05, with many countries around the world already making this change. This blog post will explore the reasons behind this shift and what it means for drivers and road safety.
Why Lower the Limit to .05?
Studies have shown that even a small amount of alcohol can impair driving abilities. At .05 BAC (blood alcohol content), a person’s reaction time and coordination are significantly reduced, making them more likely to be involved in an accident. In addition, at this level, a person’s judgment and decision-making abilities are also compromised, making it more difficult for them to respond to unexpected situations on the road.
Lowering the legal limit to .05 would send a strong message that even a small amount of alcohol can affect a person’s ability to drive safely. This change would also align the legal limit with the recommendations of leading health organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), which considers .05 to be the safe limit for alcohol consumption.
In New York State, for example, The Mayor of New York City and the head of the NYC Department of Transportation, Ydanis Rodriguez, are pushing for this change. They point to the 30% increase in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. “This is not about going after anyone that wants to have a drink,” Rodriguez said. “If you have a drink, if you want to have a drink, get an Uber, get a taxi, but please don’t drink and drive.” Only one state, Utah, has lowered it’s BAC level to .05, partly in response to a recommendation from the NTSB in 2013.
Presumed Impairment in Florida
An alcohol level of .08 is the legal minimum for presumed alcohol impairment in Florida. Florida Statute 316.1934 can be found here:
316.1934 Presumption of impairment; testing methods.—
(2) At the trial of any civil or criminal action or proceeding arising out of acts alleged to have been committed by any person while driving, or in actual physical control of, a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties were impaired or to the extent that he or she was deprived of full possession of his or her normal faculties, the results of any test administered in accordance with s. 316.1932 or s. 316.1933 and this section are admissible into evidence when otherwise admissible, and the amount of alcohol in the person’s blood or breath at the time alleged, as shown by chemical analysis of the person’s blood, or by chemical or physical test of the person’s breath, gives rise to the following presumptions:
Impact on Road Safety
Lowering the legal limit to .05 is expected to have a significant impact on road safety. In countries where the limit has already been lowered, there has been a noticeable decrease in alcohol-related accidents and fatalities. For example, in Australia, where the limit was lowered to .05 in the 1980s, there has been a 20% decrease in alcohol-related road accidents. In Sweden, which has a limit of .02, there is one of the lowest rates of drunk driving in the world.
In addition to reducing the number of accidents, lowering the legal limit to .05 would also reduce the severity of accidents. At lower levels of alcohol, drivers are less likely to engage in dangerous behaviors such as speeding or reckless driving. This means that even if an accident does occur, the likelihood of serious injury or death is reduced.
The American Beverage Institute argues that a 0.05 BAC level doesn’t focus on the real problem, because it focuses on moderate drinkers and not more dangerous impaired drivers. The organization, consisting of thousands of restaurants and bars was quoted in a May 14, 2013 news article published by USA Today following the NSTB’s original recommendation. Their position is that the average woman reaches 0.05% blood-alcohol content after one drink, while 70% of drunken-driving fatalities are caused by drivers with at least a 0.15% BAC, about six or seven drinks.
What This Means for Drivers
For drivers, lowering the legal limit to .05 means that they need to be more cautious when it comes to alcohol consumption before driving. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect their ability to drive safely, and they could be charged with drunk driving if their BAC is above .05.
It is important for drivers to understand that alcohol affects everyone differently, and there is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption before driving. Factors such as weight, age, and gender can all influence how alcohol affects a person, so it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid drinking altogether before getting behind the wheel.
Lowering the legal limit for intoxication to .05 is a step forward in road safety, but not without criticism.