Alcohol and young drivers: a fatal combination

Alcohol - Martinson & Beason, P.C.There has been quite a lot of debate recently regarding the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation to lower the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) to 0.05 from its current 0.08 in all states, including Alabama.

Proponents say that it will help keep impaired drivers off the road and save lives. Critics argue that most of the drunk drivers that cause auto accidents have, on average, a BAC much higher than 0.05.

However, a recent article in The New York Times may encourage some who were on the fence about this issue to support a lower legal BAC limit.

The article argues that lowering the legal BAC could save the lives of young people, in particular, who comprise the most car accident-related fatalities (regardless of alcohol involvement). Young people involved in fatal accidents are more likely to have alcohol in their system—at 21 percent, more than any other age group.

The article cites studies that “have shown that even a small amount of alcohol can disrupt a person’s ability to concentrate or do two things at once.”

This effect is strengthened in young people, according to National Transportation Safety Board chairperson Deborah A. P. Hersman: “Young drivers have a far greater risk differential in the 0.08 to 0.05 range. Lowering the legal limit can make people more thoughtful about having the second, third, or fourth drink – because every drink raises a driver’s crash risk level exponentially.”

Alcohol’s enhanced effect on young people, combined with their inexperience behind the wheel, can be a deadly combination. The question now for policymakers is whether or not lowering the legal limit is the best method to reduce the thousands of deaths that happen every year because of drunk driving.

We want to know what you think of the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation: a life-saving policy or an intrusive overreach?