On Tuesday, May 14, 2013, the national Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) announced its new set of strategies for combating drunk driving. The goal of the proposed interventions would be “to eliminate alcohol-impaired driving crashes.” And chief among the proposals is lowering the threshold blood alcohol concentration (BAC) across the country. Specifically, the NTSB is now urging all states to lower the threshold from .08 percent BAC to .05 percent BAC, a reduction of 37.5 percent.
But what does this mean? The short answer is that it will be much easier to get a DUI. If it now takes 8 beers to put you at the legal limit, you could be charged with DUI under the proposed limit after drinking only 5 beers. Thankfully, however, the NTSB has no authority to directly regulate DUI laws. But would this keep such a change from coming to Mississippi?
Just because the NTSB has no direct authority to regulate state law does not mean that they cannot have a profound impact on them. It was just in 2004 that the federal government threatened to withhold highway funds in order to effectively force states to change their threshold blood alcohol concentration from .10 percent to .08 percent. Given Mississippi’s current economic status, the loss of such funding would be detrimental. Moreover, Mississippi is quite a politically conservative state; this is evidenced by the overwhelming support for the recently signed House Bill 481 that broadened the penalties for first-time and repeat DUI offenders.
However, whether such support will be garnered for the NTSB’s proposed change is yet to be seen. Interestingly enough, the Governors’ Highway Safety Administration and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are not supportive of the change. For once MADD seems to agree with the American Beverage Institute that the change would target mere social drinkers; other measures such as ignition interlocks for offenders would likely be more effective. But rest assured that we will continue to follow the issue as it develops.
For more information on DUI laws, criminal defense, and related matters, please visit our website: www.mississippidui.com