SARASOTA - A new recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board could convince drivers to think twice before ordering a second beer or glass of wine at dinner. The NTSB is recommending all states lower the legal limit for a driver's blood alcohol level from the current .08 to .05.
They say when Europe cut its legal limit to .05 several years ago, it also cut the death rate from drunk driving in half. But people we spoke with locally say while the idea may be good, they don't think it will keep people from drinking and driving.
“On the onset, there’s a lot of publicity, it brings…a little more awareness to the issue, so yeah, people will probably pull back and probably stay home and drink more.” Bar owner Milo Milkovich says regardless of the laws that may come and go, it ultimately comes down to personal responsibility at the end of the night. "People should be socially responsible for their own actions by taking a cab, having a designated driver; I mean there’s bus service, there’s a lot of options out there."
But some wonder whether or not a change like this would really do much to keep impaired drivers off the road. "It’s going to increase the amount of DUI's that are submitted, but not really affect people’s drinking habits. They're not going to be any more concerned than they have been; if they're going to do it, they're going to do it," says bartender Rachel Funk.
Others think the recommendations are less about increasing safety, and more about increasing revenue. "Most of the DUI laws and alcohol laws, especially in Georgia, where I'm from, are not for the safety of the community; they're for the revenue of the city,” says bar patron Dana Wollin.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Florida ranked third for the number of drunk driving deaths in 2011. They say while any change would be supported, the best option is to just play it safe. "MADD was really instrumental in getting the .08 adopted as the federal BAC level for DUI, and again, MADD's policy has always been that the safest course of action is to not drink and drive," says Monica Johnson with MADD.
The jury is still out on whether or not this recommendation is going to get any traction with lawmakers. Ultimately it’s up to the states to decide whether or not to implement new drunk driving limits, but failure to do so could mean the loss of millions of dollars in highway funding from the federal government.