Utah lowers DUI legal limit to 0.05

Utah is about to become the first state in the nation to lower its DUI “legal limit” to 0.05 BAC, which would put it in line with most other countries and the NTSB’s 2013 recommendation.

The Utah legislature passed the law this week and the Governor is expected to sign it.

Utah has never been an alcohol friendly state, so it is not surprising that it is the first state to pass this type of legislation.  I suspect that other states will follow its lead, but it may take a while. On the other hand,  I do not expect the current Congress to force the states to lower their limit by conditioning receipt of Federal highway funds on doing so (as it did previously to get the states to lower their BAC limits to 0.08 and raise drinking ages to 21).

Going to a 0.05 standard is getting very close to a zero tolerance, “don’t drink and drive” standard, as opposed to our current tolerance for some alcohol consumption so long as the person is not impaired.

What do you think?

Illinois Secretary of State White says 0.05 BAC law needs further study

From the Sun-Times:

Secretary of State Jesse White believes the idea of reducing Illinois’ drunk-driving threshold merits “further study,” his office confirmed Tuesday after a federal agency recommended all states scrap their .08 DUI standards.

The National Transportation Safety Board urged all 50 states to lower their drunk-driving limits by nearly half from .08 blood-alcohol content to .05 blood-alcohol content.

“It’s an issue that needs further study. We commend them for looking into this and the work they’ve done. But we feel at this point, it needs more study to go to .05,” White spokesman Dave Druker told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Druker said White was not prepared to move any kind of legislative package in the dwindling days of the spring legislative session and that his senior staff would delve more deeply into the NTSB’s findings.

A 180-pound man could drink no more than two 12-ounce servings of light beer in an hour to stay below a .05 blood-alcohol content, according to an online blood-alcohol calculator maintained by the University of Oklahoma.

Under the existing .08 law, that same person could drink four 12-ounce servings of light beer to remain below the drunk-driving limit, the university calculator showed.

When asked whether the secretary of state’s office has a concern about how those tighter standards would could make it impossible for Illinoisans to drink alcohol at weddings, anniversaries or Super Bowl parties and still drive legally, Druker said, “It’s an issue.”

But Druker cautioned that White had not formulated a position on the NTSB recommendations.

“I don’t think we’ve thought it through to that extent. We just heard about the report today,” Druker said.

Illinois has had a .08 blood-alcohol standard since 1997, when then-Secretary of State George Ryan successfully pushed the change through the General Assembly. Previously, the state’s drunk-driving limit stood at .10 blood-alcohol content.

Will new car tech put an end to drunk driving?

I have been hearing for years about how automakers have been working on new technology to eliminate drunk driving.  In my opinion, they will need a federal regulation mandating this technology if they want to make this universal.  Otherwise, too many people will not want to pay more money for a feature that gives them less freedom.

From new technology could put an end to drunk driving:

A technological breakthrough that could virtually eliminate the drunken driving that kills 10,000 Americans each year was announced Thursday by federal officials, who said it could begin appearing in cars in five years.

The new equipment won’t require a driver to blow into a tube, like the interlock devices some states require after drunken-driving convictions. Instead, either a passive set of breath sensors or touch-sensitive contact points on a starter button or gear shift would immediately register the level of alcohol in the bloodstream.

Drivers who registered above the legal limit wouldn’t be able to start the car.

“The message today is not ‘Can we do this?’ but ‘How soon can we do this?’ ” said Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “It is a huge step forward.”

Eager to introduce an advance that would rival seat belts or air bags in saving lives, Rosekind said he would push to get the technology finalized, field tested and put into use before the five to eight years anticipated by researchers.

Though no cost-per-car estimate has been made, once the sensors go into general production it’s anticipated the cost will be equal to that of seat belts or air bags, about $150-$200 per vehicle.

Asked whether there would be a federal effort to mandate use of the devices in all new vehicles, Rosekind said he wasn’t sure that would be necessary.

“There’s not going to be a parent who isn’t going to want this in their child’s car,” he said. “There’s not going to be a business that’s not going to want this in their vehicles.”

NHTSA, safety advocates and automakers discussed whether the necessary technology was feasible for years. Researchers funded by auto manufacturers and federal safety regulators now have determined that it works.

They have developed passive sensors that detect how much a driver has had to drink, but are working on how best to package the sensors inside a vehicle. They have determined how to package touch-sensitive devices but still need to refine the technology to ensure accuracy…
The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, opposes the alcohol detection system.

“Today, NHTSA, MADD, and major auto makers presented what they claim will be a voluntary system … a description that directly contradicts their own past statements,” the organization said in a statement.

Though Rosekind said he didn’t think it would be necessary to make the system mandatory, he did not preclude that option. MADD is unambiguous in its belief that the system belongs in all vehicles.

Read the full story here:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/new-technology-could-put-an-end-to-drunk-driving-federal-officials-say/2015/06/04/1cd31176-0a5b-11e5-9e39-0db921c47b93_story.html

New NHTSA regulation to require backup cameras in all news cars by 2018

From a press release from the NHTSA:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today issued a final rule requiring rear visibility technology in all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by May 2018. This new rule enhances the safety of these vehicles by significantly reducing the risk of fatalities and serious injuries caused by backover accidents.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of backover accidents — our children and seniors,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “As a father, I can only imagine how heart wrenching these types of accidents can be for families, but we hope that today’s rule will serve as a significant step toward reducing these tragic accidents.”

Today’s final rule requires all vehicles under 10,000 pounds, including buses and trucks, manufactured on or after May 1, 2018, to come equipped with rear visibility technology that expands the field of view to enable the driver of a motor vehicle to detect areas behind the vehicle to reduce death and injury resulting from backover incidents. The field of view must include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. The system must also meet other requirements including image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation.

“Rear visibility requirements will save lives, and will save many families from the heartache suffered after these tragic incidents occur,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. “We’re already recommending this kind of life-saving technology through our NCAP program and encouraging consumers to consider it when buying cars today.”

On average, there are 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries per year caused by backover crashes. NHTSA has found that children under 5 years old account for 31 percent of backover fatalities each year, and adults 70 years of age and older account for 26 percent.