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NTSB encouraging states to lower drunk driving limits

On behalf of Pat Lauer at Law Offices of Patrick F. Lauer, Jr. LLC

In Pennsylvania, as in all other states, the legal limit for drunk driving is a blood alcohol content of 0.08. However, this may soon change. The National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended that states lower their DUI thresholds even lower, to 0.05.

The NTSB says that lowering the limit will improve safety and reduce highway fatalities. In addition, the change would bring the United States’ drunk driving laws in alignment with most of the developed world. According to USA Today, more than 100 countries currently use a 0.05 standard.

Alcohol sellers, however, worry that the new standard would go too far. The American Beverage Institute, a trade group representing restaurants that sell alcohol, said that a lower limit would punish responsible drinkers without doing anything to address the safety issues posed by repeat or very intoxicated drunk drivers.

Indeed, it does not take much to bring a person’s blood alcohol content up to 0.05. According to a chart published by the University of Pittsburgh, a man weighing 175 pounds would reach that level after consuming two standard drinks. For a 100 pound woman, it would take just one standard drink. (A “standard drink” is defined as 1.5 ounces of liquor, a 5-ounce class of wine or a 12-ounce beer.)

Prior federal action

This is not the first time that the federal government has encouraged states to lower their drunk driving limits.

For years, many states had DUI thresholds of 0.10. However, in 1982, Congress enacted legislation that encouraged states to lower their limits to 0.08. While the change was not mandatory, states that did not follow the federal guidance faced the threat of losing federal highway funds. By 2004, all 50 states had adopted the new limit.

Pennsylvania DUI penalties

Even without the limit change, it is important for Pennsylvania drivers to be careful when getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. Sometimes, all it takes is one extra glass of wine at dinner or an additional cocktail at happy hour to put a person over the legal limit. Many times, people do not realize that they are legally intoxicated.

In addition to the obvious safety concerns, drunk driving can also have significant legal consequences. A first offense for driving with blood alcohol content between 0.08 and 0.10 can result in six months of probation and a fine of up to $300. On a first offense, drivers with blood alcohol contents over 0.10 face up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 and a one-year driver’s license suspension.

Because of these penalties, it is important to seek experienced legal help if you or a loved one is facing drunk driving charges. An experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer will be able to fully investigate the circumstances of the alleged offense to ensure that your rights are fully protected.