PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – The National Transportation Safety Board has agreed to recommend on Tuesday the states lower their blood-alcohol content while investigating a drunk driving incident. The current BAC is set at .08 percent, they suggest the level be set at .05 percent. The last change from .10 to .08 took the country 21 years for all the states to implement.
The NTSB has estimated that if all the states were to make this change, 1,000 lives could be saved each year. And the risk of having an accident with the lower level decreases from 100 percent to 39 percent. This recommendation stirred up criticism from many restaurant trade groups.
“No matter the level, I’ll always be safe, I’m not better than you, I’ve just learned my lesson,” said Marty Griffin. “If we can save 1,000 lives, 1,000 fathers, 1,000 mothers, than we shouldn’t fight this.”
The NTSB reports that nearly 10,000 people die and 170,000 people are injured in alcohol-related traffic accidents each year.
Defense Attorney Mike O’Day describes the problem as coming from “two generations of binge drinkers.” He adds that this problem of drinking and driving can’t be fixed by changing the levels, the person has to take personal responsibility and control their drinking.
“If I go out with my wife for drinks, we decide who is going to have drinks and the other will stay sober to drive us home,” said Marty. “It’s not hard to do the right thing and be responsible.”
Marty and O’Day agree that this is not going to stop people from continuing to drink as much as they would even with the change. But O’Day does believe that the police will try to enforce this more with any traffic stops.
“If you think that you’re not going to get pulled over, think again,” said O’Day. “Your car could have a light out and you’ll get pulled over, and if you’re drunk, they will arrest you.”
Caller Patricia from Plum joined in the conversation, telling her tragic story about losing her son in a drunk driving accident, where her son was the driver. Years later her grand-daughter was a victim of a drunk driver and survived the crash.
“If someone at the bar would have just been cognoscente on the amount of alcohol my son had he could still be alive and my grand-daughter may never have been in that accident,” said Patricia.
Baldwin Police Officer Gary Krek doesn’t drink alcohol and believes it’s possible for all people to control their drinking, but doesn’t think that the change will affect many of them. As a police officer, this change won’t affect they way he conducts his police business, but hopes that the public does become more conscious about their consumption.
“Your reaction time is slower, your decision-making slows down,” said Krek. “It’s very simple, the vast majority of people drink and drive.”
Mike Pintek spoke with Amy Christie, the Executive Director of the PA Licensed Beverage Association, about the effect this change will have on the employers of restaurants and bars. Her organization represents any tavern, bar or restaurant that has a license to serve alcohol on the premises.
She explained that when the first change came from .10 to .08 her employers struggled to make money. With this change she fears people won’t want to even go to a restaurant but instead stay at home.
“People need to stand up together against a organization that’s trying to force a neo-Prohibition society on us,” said Amy Christie. “More people are drinking at home and not at our restaurant which loses us money.”
Christie tells Mike that off-premise sales, buying from a beer distributor or a state store, has increased and off-premises sales, at bars and restaurants has declined.
Kevin Joyce, owner of the Carlton Restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh, believes that the NTSB is looking at the wrong solution to this problem. He explains that we spend a lot of wasted money to things like DUI check points that could be going to forces on the streets to get the drunk drivers.
“Unfortunately we tend to look for the wrong solution, the problem is that people have a problem with drinking,” said Joyce. “taking it to .05 is going after the wrong target, but we tend to do things that make us feel good, but not attacking the problem.”
“By changing it to .05, we are putting a lot of good people grouped in with the bad ones,” said Joyce.
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