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Drunk driving: Why is MADD among critics of lower alcohol limit? (+video)

The National Transportation Safety Board is proposing that the legal limit for a driver's blood-alcohol content be reduced from 0.08 to 0.05. Critics say it's the wrong focus for anti-drunk driving efforts.

Jeff Glor reports on the National Transportation Safety Board's new suggestions for lowering the blood alcohol limit by nearly half -- and the objections they're receiving from the beverage and hospitality industries.
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On its surface, the recommendation seems simple: reduce the legal limit for blood-alcohol content (BAC), and drunken-driving fatalities will fall, too.

But nearly as soon as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made that proposal Tuesday, a chorus of dissent began. Lower the BAC limit, critics argued, and you criminalize responsible social drinkers – and do little to make the roads safer.

And the opposition came from some unlikely corners.

“As a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, the most important thing to me is that we save as many lives as we can as soon as possible,” says Jan Withers, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). “The issue with lowering the legal limit is that it will take a lot of effort for a potential result that is many, many years down the line.”

While MADD doesn’t oppose the idea of lowering the legal limit in principle, it’s the wrong place for the government to focus its efforts against drunken driving now, she says. It’s a critique mirrored by many involved with drunken-driving policy issues.

The NTSB is proposing that the legal limit for BAC be reduced from its current level of 0.08 to 0.05.

There’s no neat correlation between blood-alcohol level and drinks consumed, but in general, a 140-pound person could consume three drinks and fall below the 0.08 ceiling, and a 180-pound person four. But if the limit were set at 0.05, that would drop to two drinks or less for the smaller person and three for the larger. 

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