The National Transportation Safety Board wants to decrease the legal driving limit to one drink, lowering the legal limit on blood-alcohol content to 0.05 "or even lower."
The agency released its "most wanted list" on Wednesday, a laundry list of policies it would like implemented nationally. The list includes recommendations to reduce the current 0.08 blood alcohol content limit and outlaw all cell phone use while driving, even hands-free technology.
"When it comes to alcohol use, we know that impairment begins before a person’s BAC reaches 0.08 percent, the current legal limit in the United States," the agency said. "In fact, by the time it reaches that level, the risk of a fatal crash has more than doubled. That is why states should lower BAC levels to 0.05— or even lower."
The agency issued the recommendation while admitting that "the amount consumed and crash risk is not well understood."
"We need more and better data to understand the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of countermeasures," they said.
"The NTSB has advocated that people should not drive impaired, whether that’s from alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications or illicit drugs," a representative from the board said. "We’ve pushed for states to reduce the threshold for DWI/DUI to 0.05 BAC or lower because research clearly shows that most people are impaired by the time they reach 0.05."
A 0.05 BAC level would reduce the number of drinks an average-weight man of 180 pounds could have to two, according to Blood Alcohol Calculator.
Women could only have one drink before they exceeded the limit. A 100-pound woman reaches .05 BAC with just one drink, but two drinks would put any woman under 220 pounds at or above the government’s desired limit.
Under the current level of 0.08, an average weight man can have four drinks until reaching the limit.
One drink is the equivalent of 1.25 ounces of 80 proof liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces. of table wine. Individuals subtract .01 percent for each 40 minutes of drinking.
The National Transportation Safety Board also is seeking a ban on hands-free technology in cars.
"Hands-free cell phone use causes cognitive distraction," said Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, during a press conference announcing the recommendations.
"We have recommended prohibiting all cell phone use, including hands-free, because a driver’s mind must be on the driving, just as their hands must be on the wheel," he said.
The agency called for a "cultural change" for its recommendation, since no states or the District of Columbia currently outlaw hands-free devices.
"Since people have limited attention, each auxiliary task impairs our processing of the primary task. For safety-critical operations, distraction must be managed, even engineered, to ensure safe operations," according to the agency’s recommendations.
"It will take a cultural change for drivers to understand that their safety depends on disconnecting from deadly distractions," the agency said. "In regulated transportation, the strict rules that already minimize the threat of distraction on paper must be embraced by every operator on every trip, and where we learn that distraction can be eliminated, reduced, or mitigated, regulators should act to do so."