WASHINGTON (Feb. 11, 2022) — A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study released today validated an NTSB safety recommendation that lowering the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit from .08 to .05 will save lives and increase road safety. NTSB issued the safety recommendation in 2013 to all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to establish a BAC limit of .05.
NHTSA found that traffic deaths decreased in Utah after the state enacted a law to lower its impaired driving legal limit to .05 in 2018. According to the study, Utah’s drop in fatal crash and fatality rates—which were 19.8% and 18.3% lower—was a significant improvement over the rest of the United States during the post-implementation year studied, which had a 5.6% fatal crash rate reduction and 5.9% fatality rate reduction in 2019. The neighboring States of Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada did not show the same levels of improvement in fatal crash and fatality rates as Utah.
“For almost a decade, NTSB has advocated for lowering the BAC limit to reduce the number of impairment-related crashes,” said NTSB Member Tom Chapman. “This study’s real-world results further prove what we already knew—lowering the BAC limit saves lives in the United States. The hope is that other states will see these results and join Utah in passing legislation for .05.”
A 2017 study estimated that lowering the BAC in every state would likely reduce the number of fatal alcohol crashes by 11%, potentially saving about 1,800 lives a year and preventing thousands more life-altering injuries.
The NTSB’s .05 safety recommendation was adopted in the Board’s safety study entitled, “Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving.” Numerous other studies, including by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Safety Council and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, have reached the same conclusion: .05 saves lives.
The World Health Organization, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety and the National Safety Council have all supported the NTSB’s safety recommendation.
Preventing alcohol- and other drug-impaired driving remains a priority for NTSB and it is a safety item on the NTSB’s 2021-2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. NTSB advocates for lowering the BAC limit to .05 and requiring the use of alcohol ignition-interlock devices for all individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated offenses.
NHTSA’s full report is available online.
To report an incident/accident or if you are a public safety agency, please call 1-844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290 to speak to a Watch Officer at the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC) in Washington, DC (24/7).