The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended today that states lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level while driving from 0.08% to 0.05% or lower.
The reduced limit is one of a series of recommendations unanimously approved by the five members of the NTSB.
In 2011, 9,878 people were killed in car crashes related to impaired driving. That's a 53% drop in since 1982, but the NTSB says efforts to further reduce deaths have stalled over the past two decades.
The .08 limit used throughout the United States is among the highest in the world. Most European, Asian, and South American countries enforce a limit of .05 or less.
"Levels higher than .05 are viewed by respected traffic safety and public health organizations around the world as posing unacceptable risk for driving," the NTSB wrote in its report.
According to a BAC calculator provided by the University of Oklahoma Police Department, a person who weighs 160 pounds and has four 12 oz. beers in two hours will have a BAC of .05. They would be allowed to drive under current law, but not if the NTSB suggestions are adopted.
Other changes recommended by the NTSB include more high-visibility enforcement of existing laws, in-vehicle technology to detect impaired driving, and targeting repeat offenders.
The NTSB board also called for all offenders to be forced to use ignition interlocks, which require the driver to pass a blood alcohol breathalyzer test before the car can be started.
These charts from the California Department of Motor Vehicles provide estimates for BAC based on number of drinks and weight. Note that all the blue boxes (.05 to .07 BAC) would signify illegal driving if the NTSB gets its way.
Included in the NTSB news release was a map of BAC limits around the world:
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