South Carolina lawmakers not sure about lower legal limit recommendation

Despite the laws that have been passed to make it tougher on people who drink and drive, drunk driving continues to be a problem across the country, including South Carolina. In 2009, 377 people died as the result of alcohol-related car accidents according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. This was an improvement on numbers for the previous four years which ranged from 400-464 fatalities. The number of people injured in accidents involving alcohol is not clear but there were over 5,000 non-fatal collisions in 2009 where alcohol or drugs played a role.

Currently there are over 14,000 people in the state with somewhere between three and four convictions for drinking and driving, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and almost 2,000 people who have been convicted of drunk driving on five separate occasions.

Lower legal limit recommended

Drunk driving is not just a concern for states. In May, the National Transportation Safety Board came out with their recommendations for states and among them was the suggestion that the blood alcohol content should be lowered from 0.08 to 0.05 according to NBC News. Their arguments for a lower BAC included the following:

  • Up to 1,000 lives across the country could be saved.
  • Studies show that some people exhibit signs of impaired behavior at lower BACs such as 0.07 and even 0.05.
  • Most countries already have a legal limit of 0.05.
  • When Australia lowered their BAC, there was a noticeable drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
  • Studies show that 4 million people admit getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.

While the NTSB cannot make states change their laws, it could lead to the U.S. Department of Transportation endorsing such a change. Some opposition has already been voiced by the National Beverage Institute, stating that changing the BAC would criminalize responsible behavior on the part of many who stay within the current legal limit.

South Carolina lawmakers unsure

The Beaufort Gazette reports that if South Carolina were to take that action, it would not likely happen for a while. Lawmakers have voiced hesitation at simply taking the word of the NTSB. Instead, many would rather have access to data that supports the NTSB's recommendation. One county sheriff pointed out that many drivers will refuse to take a breathalyzer and this refusal prevents officers from knowing what their BAC was at the time that they were taken into custody.

Lawmakers and law enforcement alike did seem in favor of anything that would help reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road. The last time states were asked to lower the BAC it took 21 years for it to occur and it appears that it may take just as long, if not longer for states to take action.

If you have been injured by an impaired driver, you should talk to an experienced attorney about how you can hold that person accountable.