ALBANY, N.Y. - On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a number of changes to help prevent impaired driving, including reducing the blood alcohol content level that determines if a driver is legally intoxicated from .08 to .05.
That's about one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 lbs., two for a 160 lb. man. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or one ounce of 80-proof alcohol.
The National Transportation Safety Board recommended all 50 states lower the BAC threshold. The board says that lowering the rate could save up to 800 lives every year and help to eliminate drunk driving in the U.S.
The NTSB says investigators cited research that showed that although impairment begins with the first drink, by .05 BAC, most drivers experience a decline in both cognitive and visual functions, which significantly increases the risk of a serious crash.
More than 100 countries have adopted the .05 alcohol content standard or lower, according to a report by the board's staff. In Europe, the share of traffic deaths attributable to drunken driving was reduced by more than half within 10 years after the standard was dropped, the report said.
"Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said. "Alcohol-impaired deaths are not accidents, they are crimes. They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will."
Among the other findings, the NTSB found that high-visibility enforcement efforts, such as sobriety checkpoints paired with media campaigns, deter drunk driving. To increase the effectiveness of these programs, the NTSB recommended that police use passive alcohol sensors to help better detect alcohol vapor in the ambient environment.
They also recommend requiring ignition interlocks for all DWI offenders, administrative license suspension which allows law enforcement authorities to immediately suspend or revoke a driver's license at the time of a DWI arrest, and assisting DWI Courts with current best practices.