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Federal government wants to lower legal alcohol limit

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The federal government says the legal alcohol limit should be lowered and wants states to change their impaired driving laws.

In its 2016 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements unveiled last week, The National Transportation Safety Board again called on states to lower blood alcohol concentration, or BAC limits from .08 to .05. NTSB first called on states to establish BAC limits of .05 or lower in 2013. The change could mean some people are over the legal limit after just one or two drinks.

“Impairment is a multifaceted problem, and it will take stricter laws better enforcement of those laws and improved education,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said.

The federal agency cites data from the last 15 years showing one-third of highway deaths involved an alcohol impaired driver. The NTSB said impairment begins before someone's BAC reaches .08, and by that time, the risk of a fatal crash has more than doubled. Law enforcement officials said the legal limit can provide a false sense of security for drivers.

“There's a lot of conversation about how much can I drink and still be ok. I think that's flirting with danger, and we should just avoid that if at all possible,” said Sergeant Robert E. Gable, and Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper certified as a drug recognition expert.

Gable said a variety of factors affect BAC including metabolism, body weight and food consumption. He said drivers showing signs of impairment can be cited even if they are below the legal limit.

“There're too many factors at play there to have a cookie cutter system of how much you should drink or how much you would be able to drink without becoming impaired,” Gable said.

Any changes would require action from the Ohio state legislature, which determines the state’s BAC limit. The federal government could potentially use the power of the purse strings with grants to encourage a change, as happened with the legal drinking age.