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Missouri to toughen drunk driving laws?

A new proposal from a federal safety board could toughen Missouri drunk driving laws and thereby reduce car accidents, injuries and fatalities.

The National Transportation Safety Board urges states to lower the threshold for blood-alcohol content (BAC) from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent. That standard has been adopted in more than 100 nations, the NTSB says, with positive safety results.

After European nations adopted the standard, traffic fatalities attributable to drunken drivers dropped by more than half.

Some safety advocates say the threshold should be pushed even lower. After all, studies show that a BAC of just 0.01 percent impairs a driver's performance. Levels of 0.05 have been linked to substantial increases in the risks of car crashes.

The NTSB said a new tactic is needed to combat drunk drivers who end the lives of about 10,000 people each year on our nation's roads.

The chair of the NTSB says the board's "goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable."

She noted that each alcohol-related fatality is not an accident, but a crime that "can and should be prevented."

However, no one should expect a dramatic proposal like this will be enacted without resistance. A number of groups are expected to vigorously fight the proposal.

An official with the Governors Highway Safety Association said the group expects the alcohol beverage industry, as well as restaurant industry, to put up stiff opposition to the measure.

Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that just over 7,000 lives would have been saved in 2010 if all drivers had a BAC below 0.08 percent.

The NTSB also urges states to make greater use of ignition interlock devices as well. Those devices prevent a driver from operating a vehicle if a certain level of alcohol is detected in their breath. Ignition interlocks work in much the same way as breathalyzers used by law enforcement agencies.

Anyone harmed by a drunken driver should speak with an experienced attorney about their legal options.

Source: Associated Press, "Tougher drunken driving threshold recommended," May 14, 2013

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