Blood alcohol levels relating to DWI arrests may lower over the next few years. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a few weeks ago that the national blood level be lowered from the current level of .08 to .05. This will likely dramatically increase the numbers of DWI arrests and conviction across the country.
By way of some history, the original level for DWI arrests was set at .150 at the recommendation of the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1938. Prior to that, the law was simply, “Don’t drive drunk.” At the request of law enforcement agencies to have a more uniform standard, the AMA studied the issue and suggested that level.
This standard held for more than 20 years. In the 1960s, states started lowering the levels to .10 in the wake of political pressures. The uniform standard of .08 came into being in the late 1990’s, when the federal government tied matching highway funds to all states lowering their limits. Louisiana, along with the rest of the states, changed their laws to keep the funding.
It is likely there will be a similar push to get states to once again lower the limits to the new recommendation. This will bring the U.S. in line with most European countries. It is questionable, however, whether someone is more impaired at the proposed lower levels than at the present standard.
The current levels place most people over the limit after approximately 4 to 5 drinks; however, law enforcement will often make an arrest below that limit. In fact, a positive read of .05 or greater, at present, will usually result in an arrest. With the proposed lower limits, some speculate arrests will start at .02 – a figure that results after only 1 or 2 drinks.