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Will Lowering the BAC in New Hampshire Save Lives?

Posted by Ryan Russman | May 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

One of the main reasons for the existence of DWI laws is to prevent drivers from consuming alcohol and causing serious or fatal accidents. Through the enforcement of DWI laws as well as drunk driving awareness, the number of alcohol-related crashes has been significantly reduced in the past decade. The Century Council reports that from 2001 to 2011, the number of alcohol impaired driving fatalities per hundred thousand people in New Hampshire experienced an almost 50% decline. Additionally, there was a decline of more than 90% in fatal alcohol impaired crashes among drivers under 21 during that same period in the state.

The question as to whether this type of the decline can be attributed solely to increased DWI laws and enforcement is a highly debated one. Though in the past decade states all over the country have toughened up their DWI laws including adding provisions such as mandatory use of an ignition interlock devices, many other factors have also come into play. For example, safety features in vehicles have improved and drunk driving awareness has increased.

A 2009 study looked at fatal traffic accidents involving drunk drivers in order to determine whether laws could directly result in reduced drunk driving fatalities. The study found that alcohol impaired driving directly relates to increased chance of causing a fatal motor vehicle accident. However, researchers could not state for certain the reasons for the reduction of fatal DUI accidents. For example, while the United States saw a significant decrease in fatal accidents, so did the rest of the world. This suggests that drunk driving awareness and safer vehicles may have had more to do with reducing fatal accidents then the implementation of DUI laws.

Researchers also discussed a topic that is still being considered by some groups as a way to further reduce DWI accidents in the U.S. ā€“ lowering the BAC limit from 0.08 to 0.08. When the limit on alcohol concentration was lowered to 0.08, it reduced the number of DUI accidents in the country. Some believe that lowering the limit even more could have an even greater effect. The study states:

ā€œlowering the BAC limit from .10 to .08 g/dL also showed an approximate 8% reduction in drinking drivers involved in fatal. Assuming that these effect sizes could be achieved from additional enforcement efforts and from lowering the BAC limit from .08 to .05, we might expect a further reduction of drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes of between 10% and 20%ā€

When a person has a BAC of .05, some may begin to experience difficulty with visual functions such as depth perception. However, in most drivers, their cognitive abilities will not be impaired. The amount of alcohol that it takes to affect a person's driving varies depending on factors such as the individual's weight, age, the amount of found eaten and more.

The Century Council reports that, in 2011, 27 fatalities were suffered due to alcohol impaired auto accidents in New Hampshire. This represents about 30% of all driving-related fatalities in the state that year. Additionally, only one fatality was reported due to an under 21 alcohol impaired driver; representing about 10% of fatalities in the state. While 30% is still a relatively high number The Century Council also states that 86% of alcohol impaired fatalities in 2011 involved drivers that had a BAC of 0.15 or more. This is considered to be an extremely high BAC. Additionally, 100% of drivers involved in a fatal accident who had a prior DWI conviction all had BACs of 0.15 or more that year. This suggests that very few drivers who caused accidents due to alcohol impairment actually had low BACs (between 0.05 and 0.08).

This information suggests that lowering the minimum BAC level would only create more criminals and do little to keep roads safer. .05 is a very low BAC and for many drivers it would mean that having one or half of one alcoholic drink with dinner could result in a DWI charge if they were driving home. Fortunately, it seems that no plans are in action to lower the BAC limit anytime soon. However, many groups, such as the National Transportation Safety Bureau, feel that this is the future of DWI law. Last May, the NTSB issued a recommendation that the BAC in the United States be lowered in order to reduce drunk driving fatalities. This report was met with much opposition however. If you have been arrested for DWI in New Hampshire and would like more information about your rights, contact a DWI attorney right away.

About the Author

Ryan Russman

Attorney Ryan Russman has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights of New Hampshire citizens. His practice, based in Exeter (Rockingham County) New Hampshire, is limited to cases involving DWI and DUI, other motor vehicle and criminal cases, and many cases involving personal injury. He is, however, best known as one of New Hampshire's leading legal authorities on DWI.

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