Restaurants balk at tougher drunken driving standards

Industry critics say responsible social drinkers would be penalized by a proposal to lower the legal limit.

By Jonathan Berr May 15, 2013 5:41PM
Couple ordering meal in restaurant copyright NULL/CorbisThe restaurant and beer industries are balking at a National Transportation Safety Board proposal to toughen the legal definition of drunken driving, arguing that it would penalize moderate social drinkers.

The NTSB has recommended that lawmakers lower the legal threshold for drunken driving, from a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% down to 0.05%.

The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association with 8,000 members, denounced the NTSB proposal, which isn't binding on state legislatures responsible for passing the laws, as "ludicrous."

"Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior," said Sarah Longwell, Managing Director of ABI, in a press release. "Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hardcore drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel."

According to the ABI, data from 2011 -- the most recent year available -- show that less than 1% of traffic fatalities were caused by drivers with a BAC of between 0.05% and 0.08%.  Plus, studies in Australia and Denmark, which enacted 0.05% standards, didn't show any significant decrease in alcohol-related deaths.

The ABI represents major restaurant chains -- though the organization doesn't disclose which ones.

For its part, the NTSB argues that the tougher standards are needed and that drivers with a BAC above 0.05 are at significantly greater risk of being involved in a crash where someone is injured or killed. Mothers Against Drunk Driving was taking a "neutral" position on the NTSB recommendation, according to The Hill.
The Beer Institute, which represents major brewers, struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that it wanted to study the NTSB's full report before commenting in detail.  Nonetheless, it urged policymakers to focus their efforts on cracking down on repeat offenders and increasing penalties on those with a BAC of 0.15 or more.

Officials at the National Restaurant Association echoed that view, telling Nation's Restaurant News that policymakers shouldn't target "the millions of Americans that enjoy an adult beverage in a responsible manner with their meal." That association represents 500,000 businesses.

The NTSB estimates that 10,000 people are killed every year in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers, and that more than 173,000 are injured. An NTSB spokesperson couldn't immediately be reached.

--Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter at @jdberr.
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May 15, 2013 9:04PM
It's more about control than solving a problem.
May 15, 2013 11:23PM
BS Joel.  If you examine drunk driving statistics, it's not the .05 or .08 or even .10 drivers that are getting into crashes and killing people.  No, it's the .18 and much higher ones.  A B/A count of .05 is FAR from being too impaired to drive.  I hope the hospitality industry fights this nonsense hard !
May 15, 2013 11:27PM

Joel S needs to stay home.  He is obviously afraid of his own shadow.  I flew thousands of flights over 20 years and never encountered the behavior he describes.


May 16, 2013 8:20AM
Purely driven by the legal machine.....40,000 new lawyers per year who need to be funded.
May 16, 2013 12:09AM
RRRRRREVENUES!!!!!  (And yes, PBS, the Fuhrer says "Wir mussen haben Ordnung!")
May 16, 2013 8:28AM

Part of my employment odyssey was that of a truck driver, Mack and International dump trucks for a landscaping/light construction company. I had a Class A CDL, and because of that, my BAC limit was .04, even if I was driving a VW Beetle..  I was able to live like that quite well, so can everyone else at .05.


The ABI, like so many businesses, is solely focused on $$$$, not the general welfare of the people in this country. I remember being in a bar several years ago, a favorite watering hole in the town where I lived.  There was a guy that was drunk to high heaven, walking back and forth saying he was going to drive home, and if a cop stopped him, he was going to kill the cop.  They kept serving him.  There are establishments that keep serving people already drunk.  Why.  Because like the ABI, all they see is $$$$.  Remember that the next time you're driving your family home some night and you see headlights coming at you.

May 16, 2013 9:49AM

Is any one except me, becoming exceptionally tired of this kind of nonsense?

Sure cut it to ,05.

I have already stopped consuming more than 2 bottles of beer, because I know that amount would cause me to be unable to pass a blow test.

So let's just drop the limit, we don't need the jobs that restaurants and breweries and distillers provide.

I used to go to a casino in a small town in southern Il.

Illinois passed laws about public smoking.

A casino that was so full on weekends, that it was difficult to move.

Now You could shoot a cannon down their main aisle and not hurt anyone.

The casino paid the state $5 per person walking onto that boat.

So in the their febrile attempts, to make us good little citizens, here we go again.


May 16, 2013 7:12AM
The problem is the involvement of politics with lobbies generating their platforms. A vehicle can be a weapon in the wrong hands or inebriated hands are behind the wheel. When you drink in a public place, you are immediately subject to a third-party opinion to your condition. Instead of making it an embarrassing situation, it "could" be a natural one. Let's end the dominance of Big Oil controlling all aspects of our lives and establish readily available Public Transaction nationwide. Every restaurant or bar should be a regular or immediately accessible stop for buses taxis or rail. Alcoholic beverages and social drinking are part of our culture. Let's upgrade to a grown-up solution so adults can enjoy rather than be destroyed by it.   
May 16, 2013 5:33AM
The ABI is only interested in money evidently. If only one person is prevented from being killed or injured from tighter standards, then it is worth it. If you want to drink "socially", let someone else do the driving. 
May 16, 2013 8:26AM
First point, most people that are impaired, don't even realize the extent of it. Second point, if you are so bent on having X amount of Drinks, do it at home, you have NO Right to expose others to the potential Hazards of driving impaired. Same for texting/talking on cellphones. I find it so funny that so-called Adults think they have some God Given Right right to Drink and Drive in Public, outside their homes. Since you never really know when a given line might be crossed, you don't have that right. Not when you are outside the Home. Be that so-called Adult, at home. I mean how much of Adult are you really, if you need  Drinks to get things going. 

Note: I do drink, I just try to keep it at HOME!

May 15, 2013 10:10PM
It should be 0.0%, like in Sweden.  By the way, Swedes love their aquavit, among other alcoholic beverages.  They know there are severe consequences when it comes to driving while intoxicated.

Oh, and since when is a BAL of 0.05% responsible behavior?  It should be 0.0%.

Further, I'd like to see the removal of alcohol from commercial aircraft. The next time my flight has to be diverted because of some passenger who was allowed to drink to intoxication I'll sue the airline.
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