Officials consider revising legal drinking limit

Houston readers may have heard that the National Transportation Safety Board recently proposed to lower the legal drinking limit to .05. The change could cause social drinkers to make significant changes to their usual habits.

For example, even two drinks consumed by someone who weighs less than 160 pounds could tip their blood alcohol content level above that .05 ceiling. The potential for potential violations is further complicated by the fact that many restaurants and bars serve beer and wine in glasses larger than the recommended 12 ounce or five ounce containers that are the basis of many BAC calculator charts. To ensure that they stay within legal limits, many adults might have to limit their social drinking to a single beverage.

If that seems strict, a local Harris County assistant district attorney recently observed that some European countries set a BAC ceiling of .05, and that many health care professionals also would support the change. Surprisingly, however, the proposal is getting resistance from an unlikely advocacy group: Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

To be clear, MADD doesn’t oppose more responsible drinking. Rather, its view is pragmatic: it reportedly took MADD and other advocates around 20 years before the current .08 alcohol limit was not consistently adopted in every state. Instead of lobbying lawmakers to revise the existing law, MADD is advocating for an ignition interlock system that would disable cars from starting if a driver had any alcohol in their blood.

The local district attorney also agrees that targeting serious offenders might be a better use of resources. According to the official, DWI offenders whose BAC levels are greatly in excess of the legal limit — perhaps by three times as much — are usually the cause of drunk driving fatalities.

Source: myfoxhouston.com, “Local Reaction to Federal Agency’s push to lower the limit for D.W.I.,” Randy Wallace, May 14, 2013