US officials recommend lowering legal alcohol limit to drive - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

US officials recommend lowering legal alcohol limit to drive

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AMARILLO - Federal investigators want to cut the legal blood alcohol concentration limit almost in half.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday its recommendation to decrease the legal BAC level from .08 to .05.

Statistics show it could reduce drunk driving related fatalities, but local law enforcement think it could also cause more problems.

So far in may, 36 people have been booked into the Potter County Jail for a DUI charge, and if legal BAC limit is changed, that monthly number could become too big for counties to handle.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword. Yeah it's good to get those folks off the street, but there's lot to think about when it comes to enforcing it," Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said.

Last year more than 1,300 people in Texas alone died in a drunk driving related crash.

The NTSB says the fatalities due to drunk driving have remained stubbornly consistent through the years, and changing the BAC standard would help change that. The suggestion is receiving mixed opinions.

"If they'd enforce the .08, we'd be fine," said one local 6th Street bar regular.

"I have no problem with that at all," said another.

There are passionate opinions for and against the idea, but the Potter County Sheriff doesn't think any law enforcement entity would be against it.

"Of course we're going to support it. We don't want to have to go out and work those DUI wrecks and tell somebody that their kid died or their relative is dead because somebody was drunk driving," Thomas said.

But that doesn't mean Thomas doesn't see flaws in the proposal.

"The jails are going to fill up with people that are DUI, and we may need that room for more violent offenses," Thomas said.

The NTSB's report shows that in Europe, drunk driving related deaths decreased by more than 50 percent when the legal limit was lowered to .05.

In fact, the U.S. is one of very few industrialized countries who still have a legal level higher than .05.

Yet statistics show only seven percent of alcohol-related fatalities in the U.S. result from drivers with a BAC less than .08.

Right now the idea of lowering the legal BAC is no more than a recommendation based off of the NTSB's research. The last time the NTSB made a recommendation to change the BAC, it took more than a decade for all of the states to comply.