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New scientific study supports lowering DUI threshold to 0.05, increasing alcohol taxes

MIAMI - DECEMBER 15:  Officer Kevin Millan from the City of Miami Beach police department conducts a field sobriety test at a DUI traffic checkpoint December 15, 2006 in Miami, Florida. According to police, the woman failed a breathalyzer test by blowing into the device and receiving two readings one at .190 the other .183, which is twice the legal limit in Florida. The city of Miami, with the help of other police departments, will be conducting saturation patrols and setting up checkpoints during the holiday period looking to apprehend drivers for impaired driving and other traffic violations.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Officer Kevin Millan from the City of Miami Beach police department conducts a field sobriety test at a DUI traffic checkpoint December 15, 2006 in Miami, Florida.

On Wednesday, the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a 489-page report with multiple recommendations to curb “entirely preventable” drunk-driving related deaths in the U.S., including lowering the blood-alcohol concentration from 0.08 to 0.05.

On Wednesday, the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a 489-page report with multiple recommendations to curb “entirely preventable” drunk-driving related deaths in the U.S., including lowering the blood-alcohol concentration from 0.08 to 0.05.

The federally funded report also calls for states to increase its alcohol taxes and limit its availability in bars, restaurants and stores by reducing the days and hours alcohol is sold.

Although the number of drunk-driving related deaths has significantly dropped by half in the last 30 years, nearly 10,000 people still die each year from traffic accidents related to driving under the influence, with almost 40 percent of fatalities being victims other than the drinking driver. According to the report, women weighing over 120 pounds and men up to 160 pounds would reach the 0.05 threshold after two drinks.

The alcohol and restaurant industry are in fierce opposition, saying that a new threshold wouldn’t deter repeat offenders, and that tax increases and advertising bans will have little to no impact on traffic safety.

We take a closer look at the study and debate its recommendations with industry experts.

Guests:

Steven M. Teutsch, M.D., doctor of internal medicine who chaired the committee report; he is also an adjunct professor at UCLA and a senior fellow at both the Public Health Institute and USC’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics

Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute

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