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Study says it is time to lower the legal blood alcohol limit


A recent report suggests that lowering the legal threshold for intoxication to 0.05 could prevent accidents.

West Virginia has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country. In MADD’s recent 2018 Report to the Nation, the anti-drunk driving group lauded West Virginia for passing a series of laws that have helped reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 52 percent in the last decade. However, until drunk driving accidents are eliminated entirely, there is still room for improvement in drunk driving laws. As Forbes reports, a recent government study has found that one of the most effective ways of combating drunk driving would be to lower the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold to 0.05 from the current 0.08.

West Virginia’s drunk driving laws

In MADD’s recent report card on states’ drunk driving laws, West Virginia managed to score some of the best marks in the nation. In 2008, West Virginia introduced an all-offender ignition interlock law requiring all convicted drunk drivers to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles. Since that law was passed, drunk driving deaths in the state have declined by 52.11 percent, one of the steepest declines in the nation.

West Virginia also conducts frequent sobriety checkpoints, has criminalized the refusal of sobriety checks, and imposes additional penalties for driving drunk with a child passenger. West Virginia is also one of the few states where ignition interlocks can be used prior to a conviction. All of these measures have been commended by MADD.

Room for improvement

However, despite declines in drunk driving deaths nationwide, drunk driving still remains the leading cause of traffic fatalities in the United States. More than 10,000 people are killed on average each year in drunk driving accidents and about 40 percent of those fatalities are people other than the drunk drivers themselves.

A recent study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine claims that one of the single best things states could do to combat drunk driving is to lower the BAC level to 0.05 from the current 0.08. The study notes that while 0.08 has become the standard legal threshold at which a person is considered too drunk to drive, it is known that driving ability deteriorates well before a person actually reaches that threshold. The study authors point to countries like Japan, Austria, and Denmark that saw declines in drunk driving deaths after they lowered their BAC thresholds to 0.05. Currently, all U.S. states have a BAC threshold of 0.08, although Utah will be lowering its threshold to 0.05 by the end of the year.

Help for accident victims

Drunk driving accidents are completely preventable, which is why it is so particularly hard for innocent victims of such accidents to cope with the aftermath of their ordeal. An accident leads to not only physical and psychological injuries, but to financial burdens as well, such as medical costs, lost earnings, and vehicle repairs. A personal injury attorney can help accident victims in a number of ways, including by helping them pursue additional compensation against a driver who may have caused the accident due to being intoxicated.

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