Beverage group rips 'ludicrous' call from NTSB for lowered blood alcohol limit

Beverage companies are pushing back on the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) call for lowering the blood alcohol limit for drivers.

The NTSB on Tuesday recommended lowering the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent. The guidance from the five-member board is not binding, but will be sent to state governments for consideration.

The American Beverage Institute panned the recommendation, calling it "ludicrous."

"Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior," American Beverage Institute Managing Director Sarah Longwell said in a statement.

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"Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hardcore drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel. It would simply divert valuable public resources that should be used to pursue the most dangerous offenders and instead use them to target drivers engaging in perfectly safe behavior."

Similarly, representatives of the Beer Institute said the NTSB's focus is misplaced.

Joe McClain, the president of the Beer Institute, told CNN the NTSB should "encourage policymakers to direct their efforts where we know we can get results: by focusing on repeat offenders and increasing penalties on those with BAC of (0.15) or more."

A spokesman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which previously pushed to lower the limit from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent, said the organization was "neutral" on the board's recommendation.

"We're not opposed to what the NTSB proposed," MADD senior vice president J.T. Griffin said according to The Denver Post.

MADD is focused instead on getting states to adopt laws that require some convicted offenders to use devices that check blood alcohol content before starting a vehicle's ignition.

"We are kind of neutral. We feel that our campaign has the potential to save the most amount of lives," Griffin said.

The use of breath-testing systems for repeat drunken driving offenders was one of 19 recommendations unanimously endorsed by the NTSB.

If states instituted the 0.05 blood alcohol content (BAC) standard, it would bring the U.S. in line with many nations, including Europe and Australia, though some countries have even lower limits.

Blood alcohol level depends on a person’s weight and the speed at which drinks are consumed. A 200 pound man, for example, would be just under the 0.05 limit after drinking three beers in an hour, according to a calculator from the insurance provider Progressive.

"The research clearly shows that drivers with a BAC above 0.05 are impaired and at a significantly greater risk of being involved in a crash where someone is killed or injured,” said the board's chairwoman, Deborah Hersman, in a statement on Tuesday.