The last time the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the minimum blood-alcohol level threshold be lowered, from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent, it was 1982. It took the better part of two decades for states to change the laws to match up with the lower number -- and that was largely due to the federal government threatening to withhold funds for highway building and maintenance.
Now, the NTSB is again recommending that states lower their limits -- this time, to 0.05 percent. This could be disastrous for people who have had a drink or two, as the average person would hit the 0.05 percent level quite quickly. This could cause the number of drunk driving charges to skyrocket.
However, drivers in Maryland don't need to worry quite yet. It could take another two decades for the laws to change again; there is opposition from many stakeholders -- including, perhaps surprisingly, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
MADD says an effort to change the law would undermine other programs to combat drunk driving that it says are working. Somewhat less surprisingly, lobbyists from trade groups representing the hospitality industry are opposed to lowering the limit, albeit for different reasons.
Members of the Maryland General Assembly also took a guarded view of the suggestion, saying that the legislature only agreed to lower the limit from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent in 2001 because of the risk of losing funds. It seems as though moving the limit further downward -- this time not by 20 percent but by more than one-third -- is far from certain.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Federal agency says lowering legal limit could cut DUI deaths," Candy Thomson, May 14, 2013