Will the U.S. lower permitted blood alcohol content levels for drivers?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is recommending that Maryland – and all other states in the nation – lower its legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit from .08 to .05 in an effort to reduce drunk driving accidents. This proposal would bring a drastic change for many drivers.

While every person reacts differently to alcohol, if you weigh 140 pounds, two drinks can put you over the recommended limit. For those who weigh less, a.05 BAC can equate to the consumption of just one alcoholic beverage. In general, one drink equals:

  • One 12 ounce beer
  • One four-ounce glass of wine
  • One one-ounce shot of hard liquor

There is no doubt that such a law change would result in higher number of driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests. However, Maryland already has strict rules regarding drinking and driving, especially for teen drivers.

Teens and drinking

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, there are approximately 13 million teenage drivers in the U.S. and nearly one in four admit that they drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of those drivers believe that alcohol, marijuana or other drugs do not affect their driving abilities. Unaware that drinking an alcoholic beverage, smoking marijuana or taking legal or illegal drugs affects their driving, teens may not alter their patterns.

Drinking and driving penalties

Maryland law enforcement authorities have the right to stop any driver whom they reasonably believe is under the influence of alcohol or is in violation of an alcohol restriction. In Maryland, there are criminal charges associated with various BAC levels and a driver under the age of 21 may lose his or her driver’s license if found with a BAC of .02 or more. A driver of any age may be subject to DWI charges for a BAC between .04 and .08, and a DUI charge for a BAC of .08 or more.

Penalties for a conviction can be quite high depending on the violation. For example, a DUI conviction can mean immediate license revocation, a fine of $1,000 or more and jail time. A DWI conviction can mean a fine of $500, an eight-point reduction off your driver’s license and jail time. If a person is transporting a minor when he or she is pulled over, the penalties may be doubled. Also, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test can mean a temporary license suspension.

Legal help is available

Charges for drinking and driving should be taken seriously. If you are arrested for DUI, DWI or underage drinking and driving, it is important to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

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