On May 15 and 16, the National Transportation Safety Board will hold forums debating whether to lower the current and long-standing legal blood alcohol content.
While it now stands at 0.08 percent for all 50 states, the board is suggesting lowering the drunk driving limit to 0.05 percent.
Approximately one third of traffic accidents are drug- or alcohol-related, according to the NTSB.
Although the federal agency has no power to change the laws, its recommendation carries weight for lawmakers.
The BAC of an individual is determined based on the volume of alcohol in the blood. For any person age 21 or over, it is legal to operate a vehicle at 0.08 percent or less.
Depending on gender and weight, a 0.08 BAC can be caused by one to six alcoholic drinks, according to DrivingLaws.org. One drink is considered one beer, one glass of wine or one shot of hard liquor.
The BAC of a person decreases over an extended period of time.
Anyone with a BAC of more than 0.08 percent is subject to arrest for driving under the influence.
However, according to Cpl. Ramsey Crochet of the CSU Police Department, most — if not all — arrests are made on a situational basis.
“We don’t make the determination (of a DUI) based on numbers, we make decisions on an arrest based on the roadside maneuvers (sobriety tests),” Crochet said.
CSUPD deals with DUIs fairly regularly, according to Ramsey. Often, the officers do not know the specific BAC of an individual until after the arrest has been made.
Spokeswoman Rita Davis said Colorado already has laws that allow a person to be arrested if they have a BAC of more than 0.05 percent. The charged is called “Driving While Ability Impaired,” or DWAI.
Any changes to state law in Colorado would not change the enforcement standards already in place for drunk drivers, according to Davis.
In college towns and larger cities such as Fort Collins, there are affordable and free alternative methods to getting home after a night of drinking, but this is not always the case in other areas.
“In Fort Collins, we are very fortunate to have many safe ways home,” said Ashley Kasprzak, executive director of Team Fort Collins, a program which educates and provides drug and alcohol prevention services.
Fort Collins has late night buses, taxi services, and other resources such as RamRide available late into the night. Services are inexpensive and even free for those who need a sober ride home.
“Fees for a DUI can add up to $10,000… ” Kasprzak said. “That’s a lot of money for a person getting started in life. It can put them into a tailspin.”
In its announcement, the NTSB said it is not necessarily expecting states to change the laws. The last lowering of legal BAC took place in 2002, following years of advocacy. However, the forum plans to provide statistical data and a panel of experts who support lowering the BAC to 0.05 percent.
“Any amount of alcohol can impair you,” Ramsey said. “Everyone handles alcohol differently.”
Senior Reporter Mariah Wenzel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.