How National Agency’s Recommendations Will Impact Arizona Drivers
Arizona has tough DUI laws. They may get tougher, but not by much. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent federal agency, recently recommended, among other things, that the blood alcohol threshold be dropped from .08 BAC to .05 in all 50 states. Those drivers whose blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 are presumed under Arizona and other state laws to be impaired.
The NTSB is an investigative agency. It doesn’t have the authority to institute the changes. It is up to the Department of Transportation whether it wants to endorse this recommendation or not. States will each have to decide whether to accept the recommendation from NTSB. If the NTSB gets support from the Department of Transportation and other states, they will be closer to Arizona’s current policies against drunk driving.
The American Beverage Institute (ABI) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) took offense to this recommendation. They believe that a lower BAC targets moderate drinkers in addition to drivers who are actually drunk. A representative of ABI said, “Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior.”
ABI points to research indicating that less than 1% of over 32,000 traffic fatalities in 2011 were caused by drivers with a BAC between .05 and .08. Moreover, those with twice the current BAC (a BAC of .15 or higher) cause more than 70% of the drunk driving deaths.
NTSB argues that the research shows you start to be impaired in cognitive and visual abilities around .05, not. 08. This increases the likelihood of a serious crash. Most countries seem to agree, since they have BAC limits at .05 or lower.
But NTSB, an independent federal agency, said research shows most drivers suffer impairment of cognitive and visual functions like depth perception at a BAC level of 0.05, increasing the risks of a serious crash. According to the agency, the risk of having an accident increased substantially at .08.
More than 100 countries have BAC limits set at 0.05 or lower, according to the agency. According to another source, the U.S., Canada, and Iraq are among the small group with a BAC threshold of .08. Most European countries, most South American countries and Australia have set their BAC levels for purposes of assessing drunk driving to .05.
A representative of the AZ Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has stated that this new federal law won’t affect Arizona, claiming Arizona has “Not only the toughest laws in the country, but the toughest enforcement in the country.” He believes this extends to Arizona’s policy on driving while using drugs, too.
Arizona has passed a number of laws that are harsher than the DUI laws in other states. Among them is a law that says even if motorists have a blood alcohol level below .08 they can be cited if they are impaired.
A recently passed law requires first time DUI offenders to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their car or other vehicle for six months. An IID requires a driver to pass a breathalyzer test before being permitted to start the vehicle. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the number of drunk driving fatalities has dropped 46% since 2007.
• NTSB Safety Report on Eliminating Impaired Driving
• Arizona DUI Laws
• Arizona MADD.org