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Legal DWI driving limit in Minnesota could change

The National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended states reduce the legal driving limit from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent. If this recommendation were to ever become law, this could lead to a serious increase in the number of Minnesota drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated.

In looking at the recommendation, the feeling of the board is that many drivers are still impaired while behind the wheel, just not impaired to the point of being over the legal limit. However, from a safety standpoint, the board claims these drivers are still causing accidents.

However, the American Beverage Institute fears that reducing the allowable blood-alcohol concentration to 0.05 percent would unfairly punish those who drink responsibly. The institute also feels this is a move to criminalize those who drink within moderation and does nothing for those heavy drinkers who are going to have way higher blood-alcohol concentrations. 

In addition to the lower legal limit recommendation, the NTSB also made the recommendation to have Breathalyzer interlock devices installed in the cars of all of those convicted of DWI. These devices would require the driver to breath into a machine that would register the blood-alcohol content of the driver. If it registered a certain amount, the car would not start. 

In looking at blood-alcohol concentrations, the level is dependent on things like weight, height, gender and what a person has in their stomach. This makes it tricky when trying to figure out how many drinks would be too many before being over the legal limit. 

For example, while a 180 pound man can have four drinks in an hour and a half and still be under the 0.08 limit, a 130 pound woman would be over the legal limit if she drank the same amount. Rather, she could probably drink three beverages during that same time period.

If the legal limit were to be reduced, this means the same 180 pound man could probably only have three drinks within 90 minutes and the 130 pound woman could only have two. 

At this point the recommendation is merely just that: a recommendation. However, if there are changes to the legal driving limit in the state of Minnesota, another post will be written to cover that change.

Source: New York Times, "States Urged to Cut Limit on Alcohol for Drivers," Matthew L. Wald, May 14, 2013

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