Cars for the rest of us.

Even MADD doesn’t endorse the NTSB’s BAC call

May 15, 13 • by Craig Fitzgerald • Legislation, News5 CommentsRead More »

BACBefore we kick off this post, let’s get this out of the way: We’re not advocates of drunk driving. But the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation of a nationwide blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 is preposterous. Even AAA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have stopped short of recommending it.

NTSB officials said it wasn’t their intention to prevent drivers from having a glass of wine with dinner, but they acknowledged that under a threshold as low as .05 the safest thing for people who have only one or two drinks is not to drive at all.

A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or one ounce of 80-proof alcohol.

Alcohol concentration levels as low as .01 have been associated with driving-related performance impairment, and levels as low as .05 have been associated with significantly increased risk of fatal crashes, the board said.

Along with the reduction in BAC, the NTSB’s recommendation also includes:
  • Increase use of high-visibility enforcement
  • Development and deployment of in-vehicle detection technology
  • Required ignition interlocks for all offenders
  • Improved use of administrative license actions
  • Target and address repeat offenders
  • Reinforced use and effectiveness of DWI courts


The NTSB states that in 2011, 9,878 Americans died in alcohol-related car crashes in 2011.  What it doesn’t do is mention how many of those nearly 10,000 people had a BAC of .05 or lower.

Crash statistics suggest that alcohol related crashes involving drivers with a BAC less than .08% result in about 6 percent of all traffic fatalities.

I’m no math major, but that means that in an average year, we’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity, fines, legal bills and clogged courts to save 1,200 people per year.

Meanwhile, speed related deaths, still amount to about 1/3 of all traffic fatalities, despite strict enforcement.

Yesterday, MADD stopped short of endorsing the NTSB’s recommendation. AAA had nothing to say about it.

According to Jonathan Adkins of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, lowering BAC to .05% is putting the focus on the wrong people.

“It was very difficult to get .08 in most states so lowering it again won’t be popular,” Adkins said. “The focus in the states is on high (blood alcohol content) offenders as well as repeat offenders. We expect industry will also be very vocal about keeping the limit at .08.”

For the record, .05 is two drinks for a 160 pound male. I don’t know about the people you know, but I haven’t seen a 160 pound male since I was in junior high school. It makes it nearly impossible to figure out whether you’d be over the limit or not, and maybe that’s the point.

About the only people who are cheering this recommendation are the defense attorneys who specialize in getting people reduced sentences for first offenses. It’s a cash cow, and they must be doing backflips.


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5 Responses to Even MADD doesn’t endorse the NTSB’s BAC call

  1. Cliff says:

    I’m a 165-pound male. But I don’t think 0.05 is unreasonable…to be honest we could all drink a bit less when we’re out and there’s a car involved.

    • Craig Fitzgerald says:

      Of course, no alcohol is a sure-fire method of not getting in an alcohol-related crash, just like no sex is guaranteed not to result in STDs and teen pregnancy.

      But .08 is an aggressive target that the authorities can’t meet now.

      .05 is just something for the NTSB to talk about.

      • Cliff says:

        It’s tough indeed — the lowest three-year average BAC in all 50 states was 0.17 in Utah, going to a high of 0.76 in South Carolina. These people are blitzed out their minds.

        • Craig Fitzgerald says:

          We should do a driving competition at .08 and see if it’s actually impaired or not.

  2. Ken says:

    Hi..not sure how to contact you regarding boston globe article on 5/18 on dueling compact SUVs. Good article. Where does the Honda CRV fit in…I seem to see that car everywhere ?