Drinking and driving: NTSH pushes to lower legal blood alcohol limit

In more than 100 countries around the world the legal limit for blood alcohol content is 0.05, and according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board, that tougher limit has contributed to reducing traffic deaths attributable to drinking and driving in Europe by half. Recently, the NTSB voted to recommend that all states in the U.S. adopt the lower level to reduce accidents related to drinking and driving.

NTSB's push to lower legal blood alcohol limit

While the NTSB is a federal agency and does not have legislative authority, it influences state legislatures and Congress through issuing policy positions and publishing white papers. According to the NTSB, alcohol-impaired driving causes up to 30 percent of all highway fatalities in the U.S. Because of concerns about road safety, the NTSB is advocating state legislatures, including Pennsylvania's, to adopt the 0.05 limit.

Currently in Pennsylvania the threshold to be charged with a DUI offense is 0.08 blood alcohol content; however, drivers with a lower blood alcohol content can be charged with a DWI offense if the consumption of alcohol impedes their ability to safely drive. A change in the standard means any driver with a 0.05 blood alcohol content would legally be identified as too intoxicated to drive and could be automatically arrested for DUI. Officials with the NTSB say while their purpose is not to punish drivers who have alcohol with dinner, they warn the safest approach under the lower standard is to not drink and drive at all, since an adult man or woman could reach 0.05 after only one or two drinks. In response to the suggestion, the Pennsylvania DUI Association anticipates a negative reaction from the public. So far, no legislation in Pennsylvania has been proposed to lower the state legal limit.

Penalties for DUI in Pennsylvania

Regardless of whether the legal limit in Pennsylvania becomes more strict or not, a DUI conviction is a serious offence and comes with serious penalties. In Pennsylvania a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 to 0.099 with no prior DUI offenses can be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor and faces a $300 fine, up to six months probation, potential alcohol treatment and alcohol highway safety school. A driver with a high blood alcohol content level between 0.10 and 0.159 with no priors can be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor and faces license suspension for 12 months, a $500 to $5,000 fine, 48 hours to six months in prison as well as treatment and safety school. The penalties are the highest for a blood alcohol level of 0.16 and above. A driver with no priors assessed with a 0.16 blood alcohol level can be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor and faces a license suspension for 12 months, a $1,000 to $5,000 fine, 72 hours to six months in prison and treatment if ordered and safety school.

Drivers in Pennsylvania should also be aware that they can face the highest level of blood alcohol content penalties for refusing breath or chemical testing to measure blood alcohol content.

If you've been arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights throughout the legal process.