AKRON, Ohio - For years, the legal threshold for what is legally intoxicated in Ohio has been a blood alcohol level of .08.
"It's been shown that once you reach .08, your reaction time is down, your perception is off as far as distances and so forth and so .08 is a good threshold I believe," said Lt. Michael Sanchez of the Summit County Sheriff's Office, commander of the county's O.V.I. Task Force.
But the National Transportation Safety Board, citing a new study, is recommending the legal limit should be dropped to .05, when they believe there is evidence that people can actually start becoming impaired.
The Summit County task force is made up of officers from various agencies across the county who use grant money to stage at least a dozen sobriety check points.
Sanchez said the officers have seen that alcohol can affect people differently.
"You get someone who drinks every day and they could have over a .10 B.A.C. and act totally normal because they are used to it, or you could have someone that never drinks and they only have two drinks and they are at .03 and they can't do a one legged stand,"
The recommendation would mean someone who weighs only about a hundred pounds may only be able to have one drink before they become legally intoxicated.
Although the current legal limit is at .08, officers on the task force say they have made OVI arrests for people who test below that but, appear to be clearly impaired.
"I have had some people in the past that have blown low, but if they cannot operate a motor vehicle safely on the roadway, they are impaired," said Deputy Wes Dobbins.
At Dee Cobb's Sports Bar in Springfield Township, owner Scott Wall said most of his patrons know their limit and are careful about drinking and driving.
"Very rarely do we have anybody that gets over the limit and in the last week, I have taken two people home that I thought were questionable. They thought they were fine but if someone does get too much over the limit, I will absolutely give them a ride home," said Wall, who also has a relationship with three different cab companies to help his customers.
Jennifer Kostelenski bartends at the business and said many of their customers also have designated drivers.
"There was a birthday party in here the other night there was six people, they had two designated drivers," said Kostelenski.
Wall says he would not oppose a change in the legal limit.
"It is about public safety, honestly, if they really think they need to drop it. I mean we were at .10, now .08, we're going to .05; I'd like to see nobody driving while drinking," said Wall, adding "maybe it will actually force people to do the responsible thing and always have a designated driver."
In order to become law, the state would have to adopt the recommendation, which is still just a recommendation not a requirement.
Across the area reaction to the proposal are mixed.
"You're handcuffing the people that want to go out and have a good time. You're going to have a glass of wine...you may be in trouble with that," said Ted Perkins of Akron.
"You have got a lot of people that their families and their children have died because someone was drinking and driving, so I don't think that you should take half a drink and be able to drive," said Minister Erick Hunt.
"Those people who are responsible today will continue to be responsible if it is lowered," said Dobbins, concluding "the people who are irresponsible, the habitual people that we have to constantly go out and pull over or they are endangering society, they are not going to change."
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