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States urged to toughen drunk driving laws

A growing number of car accidents in Kansas and across the country is prompting demands to lower the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit once again. Deaths related to drunk driving have dropped significantly over the past decades, but a significant percentage of fatal accidents continue to be attributed to the influence of alcohol, exceeding those caused by distracted driving or drugged driving. According to one study, almost 40 percent of those killed in drunk driving accidents were not drunk themselves.

Thus, many public safety advocates are looking for ways to make the roadways safer. One study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine calls for a vision of zero deaths related to drunk driving and recommends a lowered legal limit as a way to achieve this goal. However, while many of these fatal crashes are caused by people with serious drinking problems and a long history of DUI arrests, lowering the BAC limit could sweep up many other drivers who are functionally safe on the road.

In all 50 states, drivers are prohibited from getting behind the wheel if their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher. However, some studies indicate that driving ability could deteriorate at lower levels of intoxication. The report calls for U.S. states to impose a limit of 0.05 percent instead. It also recommends greater use of mandatory ignition interlock devices after a DUI conviction.

While these proposals are driven by a desire to save lives, the practical consequences may do little to lower the number of serious, fatal accidents. However, individual drivers could be at a greater risk than ever of a DUI arrest or conviction. Drivers who are facing drunk driving charges might benefit from working with a criminal defense attorney in order to protect their ability to drive, often essential to work, school or family life. A lawyer can challenge police evidence and work to avoid a conviction.