The National Transportation Safety Board recently issued a recommendation that states modify their DUI laws to substantially lower the blood-alcohol content at which drivers are considered legally intoxicated. In all 50 states, including New Jersey, drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or above can be convicted of driving while intoxicated. The NTSB recommends lowering the legal BAC limit by more than a third to just 0.05.

Federal agency recommends 0.05 BAC limit

The NTSB is a federal agency devoted to investigating transportation safety issues and making recommendations to help improve safety on America’s roadways – but it does not have any lawmaking power. Therefore, it will be up to individual state governments to choose whether to enact the recommended changes.

The last time such a change was made on a national scale, reducing the BAC limit from 0.10 to 0.08 in every state, the process took 21 years from beginning to end, NBC News reported. The last state to adopt a 0.08 limit did so in 2004. Some experts, including the Governors’ Highway Safety Association, have expressed doubts that any states will change their DUI laws based on the recommendation.

Recommendation draws support, criticism

Public reaction to the NTSB’s proposal has been mixed. Supporters say that states could prevent traffic accidents by further restricting the amount of alcohol that people may legally consume before driving. According to the NTSB, alcohol use increases the risk of accidents even at BAC levels below 0.08.

Meanwhile, those who favor keeping the DUI laws as they are say lowering the limit would criminalize responsible behavior and would have no effect on the number of heavily intoxicated drivers on the road. Drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or above are responsible for over 70 percent of fatal DUI accidents, according to the National Beverage Institute, an organization that has criticized the recommendation.

DUI in New Jersey

Although every state currently has the same 0.08 BAC threshold for drunk driving, the specific DUI laws are different in every state. In New Jersey, the penalties for a first-time DUI offense vary depending on how much the driver’s BAC exceeds the 0.08 limit.

For a New Jersey driver with a BAC of at least 0.08 but less than 0.10, the penalties for conviction include a three-month license suspension, thousands of dollars in fines and fees, imprisonment for up to 30 days, and up to 48 hours of community service. Drivers convicted of a first-time DUI with a BAC of 0.10 or higher face the same penalties, but with higher fines and a license suspension period of up to one year.

For drivers convicted of multiple DUI offenses in New Jersey, as well as those involved in accidents that result in injury or death, the penalties for DUI can be far more severe.

Because a DUI conviction can have serious, life-changing consequences, anyone arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated should contact a veteran DUI defense attorney at their earliest opportunity to help preserve their rights and defend against the charges.