NTSB recommends lowering legal BAL to 0.05 percent

Jan 25, 2016

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its "most wanted" list for 2016. Among its recommendations is lowering the legal blood alcohol limit. But some law enforcers and elected officials believe there's a better way to crack down on DWI cases.

The NTSB recently released its "Most Wanted" list for 2016, which covers topics including improved rail and air safety, improved seating safety inside motor vehicles and curbing distracted and impaired driving. As part of its recommendations for cutting down on impaired driving (click here for the report), the NTSB calls for lowering the current legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08% to 0.05%.

State Senator Patrick Gallivan (left) and Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard speak at a recent news conference, during which they were asked about the NTSB's recommendation to lower the legal blood alcohol limit to 0.05%.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Not everyone is quick to jump in favor of that recommendation. Among them is State Senator Patrick Gallivan, who is a former Erie County Sheriff and New York State Police Captain. He did not yet review the NTSB's recommendations when asked about the organization's wish list, but told local reporters that he and fellow Albany lawmakers feel the bigger issue is curbing repeat offenses.

"That's what has come to our attention more the past several years," Gallivan said. "We obviously don't have it figured out because people that have done it before continue to go out and do it. That's a little bit more what we've been focused on in our various committee work in Albany."

Supporters of a lowered BAL claim many people are already impaired well below the current legal limit. Current Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard backed the senator's idea to crack down harder on repeat offenders. He also wants to see more data before deciding whether to support the NTSB's recommendation.

"What we have now is based on medical opinion, not some group that wants to lower it," Howard said. "Let's see what the medical opinion is."

Howard was also asked about last week's delay by the Erie County Legislature on a scheduled vote to change the county's bar closing times from the current 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. Supporters of that idea suggest that will also serve to cut down on drunk driving risks. Howard, though, told reporters that based on his department's data, more drunk driving related arrests tend to happen after happy hours.