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How many drinks?

Published: Monday, June 3, 2013 4:15 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, June 3, 2013 4:21 p.m. CDT

The National Transportation Safety Board has voted to recommend all states lower their blood-alcohol content that constitutes drunk driving from .08 to .05.

Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he thinks the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is overreacting.

“I’ve heard about this, and I’m quite concerned they are overreacting,” Thompson said. “I’m very comfortable with the current level in the sense that those who are abusing alcohol will be caught and punished.”

By lowering the level, Thompson said he’s concerned this would affect individuals who are simply enjoying a social drink on an evening out.

Thompson said he’s sure the NTSB has its basis for making its recommendation, but it is not one with which he agrees.

Princeton Police Chief Tom Root said he thinks the current .08 limit is a fair standard and shouldn’t be changed.

Through the years, the legal blood alcohol limit has decreased from 0.15 to  0.10 to 0.08, Root said. If that impairment limit continues to go down, most people would be afraid to go out and have a couple drinks and then drive home, even though they would know they are not impaired, he said.

In no way does he support anyone driving while impaired, but he does think the .08 blood alcohol limit has been working fairly well, Root said.

In a press release issued by the NTSB, Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB, said the idea for a tighter standard is part of the safety board’s initiative outlined in a staff report and approved by the panel to eventually eliminate drunk driving, which accounts for about a third of all road deaths in the United States. The safety board believes lowering the rate to 0.05 would save about 500 to 800 lives annually.

Looking at the application of a lower blood alcohol limit, the NTSB states that under the current law, a 180-pound male typically will hit the 0.08 threshold after four drinks over an hour, according to an online blood alcohol calculator published by the University of Oklahoma. That same person could reach the 0.05 threshold after two to three drinks over the same period, according to the calculator.

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