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"For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong."---H.L. Mencken

Should the Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) be lowered from .08 to .05?

The following is the conclusion of this respected Canadian organization. At the request of the Canadian government they evaluated all of the studies from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Great Britain and Sweden. The full 121 page report is available in Adobe Acrobat format at: .

"The safety impact of lowering the BAC limit for drivers in Canada"
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation, May, 2002

Where positive results [of lowering the legal blood alcohol level (BAC)] have been reported, the studies are often flawed or the results are confounded by other factors. There is little evidence that lowering the BAC limit from 80 to 50 mg/dL will, in and of itself, result in fewer alcohol related traffic deaths.

The fact that introducing a lower BAC limit does not necessarily have a demonstrable impact on traffic safety should not be taken to suggest that statutory BAC limits have no value in efforts to control the alcohol-crash problem. Indeed, simply having and enforcing a BAC limit is an efficient and effective means of dealing with the problem. The actual numerical value of the limit may be of relatively little importance compared to the policies, programs and procedures that have been implemented to support it.

The function of a BAC limit may be to inform the public that the consumption of alcohol beyond a certain point is considered illegal and dangerous when combined with driving. The specific point at which driving after drinking crosses the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour may be of relatively little consequence. This is because the general public has only a very superficial understanding of the relationship between alcohol consumption and BAC particularly in terms of their own behaviour. Most do not have access to facilities to measure their own BAC and, hence, must make the decision about driving based on their own subjective assessment of the extent to which alcohol has adversely affected their ability to operate a vehicle safely. Merely knowing a limit exists and that the limit is reasonable may be sufficient to ensure that responsible citizens will attempt to comply with the law by drinking moderately and/or making alternative transportation arrangements.

Less responsible citizens have a tendency to make very poor decisions concerning driving after drinking. They don't comply with the existing limit and are unlikely to change their behaviour in an attempt to comply with a new, lower limit. If so, a reduction in the legal BAC limit, in and of itself, would not be expected to have a substantial impact on the prevalence of impaired driving or alcohol-related crashes. In conclusion, our critical review of the evaluation literature failed to provide strong, consistent and unqualified support for lowering BAC limits. At best, the results are mixed and the methodological weaknesses in the studies question the robustness and veracity of the evidence.

The mission of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries.
TIRF is a national, independent, charitable road safety institute. Since its inception in 1964, TIRF has become internationally recognized for its accomplishments in a wide range of subject areas related to identifying the causes of road crashes and developing programs and policies to effectively address them.
[Emphasis added]. Website:

"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens."
---Jimi Hendrix

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