Legal limit debated

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a change to the legal blood alcohol content for drivers from .08 to .05 percent on May 14.

The change is being heavily considered nationally but the NTSB has no authority to change the law, it must be done at the state level.

“We’re a state that loves their alcohol. It’s not going to pass. Not for a long time, anyway. We might be conservative and in the Bible belt, but after a sermon we all like to kick back with a Bud Light,” said Senior psychology major Brent Majors. “Having a drink with dinner and driving home shouldn’t be a crime.”

The last time North Carolina dropped the BAC legal limit from .10 to .08 percent was October 1, 1993, according to the Highway Safety Research Center. This change took two decades after the NTSB recommended the change.

“Initially, there will be a spike [in DWIs] because people will not be used to it,” said Lt. Chris Sutton of ECU Police. “I think this would cause significant changes for the entire campus community and city of Greenville.”

The report published by the NTSB claims the change could save between 500 and 800 lives every year. The study also reported that drivers showed impairment at levels as low as .02 percent.

More than 100 countries have dropped their legal BAC limit to .05 percent with significant changes according to the NTSB. In Australia, the change led to provinces reporting a 5-18 percent drop in traffic fatalities.

“You can barely drink anything and drive now. And there’s not a big difference between .08 and .05,”said Chris Glienke, the manager of local Peasant’s Pub.

The American Beverage Institute has strongly opposed the change to the legal limit. In a press release, they argue that the NTSB is trying to criminalize non-criminal activity.

With an average male at 195 pounds drinking three 12 oz. beers over a one hour time period his BAC would be .05. An average female at 150 pounds would only have to consume two 12 oz. beers in the same time period for the same result.

“It would be a good change because it reduces the amount one should consume,” said Sutton.
However, Sutton said the effects of the BAC level change rests on the driver and the decisions they make when consuming alcohol.

In the past year, there were 68, 246 DUIs issued in North Carolina. With 365 deaths from drunk driving in the state, 30 percent of all traffic deaths were alcohol-related.

At .05 BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by 39 percent. At .08, the risk increases by more than 100 percent according to the Highway Safety Research Center. They also report that at the current legal limit, an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash kills someone every 31 minutes and injure someone every two minutes.

These writers can be contacted at news@theeastcarolinian.com.

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