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National Transportation Safety Board Seeks Tougher DUI Laws in West Virginia and Other States

Because alcohol-related car crashes claim about 10,000 lives each year, the National Transportation Safety Board is now recommending that all 50 states lower the blood alcohol content from 0.08 blood-alcohol content (BAC) to 0.05.  Their goal is to eliminate drunk driving, which causes about a third of all deaths involving automobiles.

National Transportation Safety Board

The safety board believes that lowering the rate to 0.05 would save about 500 to 800 lives annually.  The board acknowledged that lowering the BAC to 0.05 would be “no silver bullet,” but they believe more action is needed since, “impaired driving remains one of the biggest killers in the United States,” NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman said. 

Hersman said progress has been made over the years to reduce drunk driving, including a range of federal and state policies, tougher law enforcement, and stepped up national advocacy. But she said too many people are still dying on America’s roads in alcohol-related crashes.  “In the last 30 years, more than 440,000 people have perished in this country due to alcohol-impaired driving.” 

West Virginia laws prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol

Under current West Virginia law, the legal blood alcohol content limit is below 0.08.  In other words, if a driver in West Virginia is stopped with a blood alcohol content of 0.08, a law enforcement officer would be required to charge him or her with driving under the influence.  On the other hand, under  West Virginia Code §17C-5-2, a law enforcement officer has the discretion to charge a West Virginia driver with driving under the influence of alcohol even without confirming the driver has a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or above.  However, this is a gray area of West Virginia law. 

As a West Virginia attorney, I have personally witnessed the prosecution of individuals for driving under the influence even though they did not have a confirmed blood alcohol content of 0.08 or above.  This usually occurs when folks are suspected of driving while under the influence of narcotics, including ones they are prescribed.  So, for the safety of yourself and others, please think carefully about whether or not to drive while taking prescription narcotics or sedatives.

Resistance from West Virginia and other states expected

“An alcohol concentration threshold of 0.05 is likely to meet strong resistance from states,” said Jonathan Adkins, an official with the Governors Highway Safety Association.

“It was very difficult to get 0.08 in most states, so lowering it again won’t be popular,” Adkins said. “The focus in the states is on high [blood alcohol content] offenders as well as repeat offenders. We expect industry will also be very vocal about keeping the limit at 0.08.”

Even safety groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and AAA declined Tuesday to endorse NTSB’s call for a 0.05 threshold. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sets national safety policy, also stopped short of endorsing the board’s recommendation. And Natalie Harvey, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, said more research is needed before her organization gets on board with the NTSB’s recommendation.

Free Consultation with a West Virginia Car Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a car accident, it’s important to speak with a car accident attorney with a proven track record as soon as possible.  If alcohol is involved, it’s even more important because punitive damages may be available if you were injured by a drunk driver in West Virginia.  Call West Law Firm for a free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney.

We are located at 107 Hale Street, Suite 321 in Charleston, West Virginia, and serve client through out the state.  Our toll free number is 1-877-943-9378.

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