Let’s get one thing out of the way: Drunk driving is a serious offense. It is dangerous and inexcusable. Craft brewers are advocates for enjoying their products responsibly. However, a recent proposal by the National Transportation Safety Board to lower the impaired driving alcohol level from .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) to .05 BAC has raised brewer concerns about a potential impact on growth.
According to the NTSB, investigators cited research showing that although impairment begins with the first drink, by 0.05 BAC, most drivers experience a decline in both cognitive and visual functions, which significantly increases the risk of a serious crash. Currently, more than 100 countries on six continents have BAC limits set at 0.05 or lower. The NTSB has asked all 50 states to do the same.
“The research clearly shows that drivers with a BAC above 0.05 are impaired and at a significantly greater risk of being involved in a crash where someone is killed or injured,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “Alcohol-impaired crashes are not accidents. They are crimes. They can – and should – be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will.”
In states like Colorado where the recommendation is being considered, craft brewers have expressed how they feel the change could impact their businesses.
From the Boulder, Colo.-based Daily Camera:
“I would be concerned if people didn’t feel like they could even have a single beer with lunch or dinner,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Boulder-based Brewers Association, a trade association for small and independent brewers. “That would hurt sales, theoretically.”
On the other hand, Gatza said lowering the blood-alcohol content limit could encourage consumers to buy more beer to enjoy at home.
Interestingly, the Denver Post reports that Colorado already has a law that forbids driving at .05 BAC called “driving while ability impaired” (DWAI), which is punishable by a penalty of eight points against a 12-point maximum that leads to loss of driving privileges. Colorado also has
ignition interlock consequences for repeat offenders.
The NTSB told the Post that the intention wasn’t to prevent adults from having a glass of wine or beer with dinner, but safety remains the highest concern. Each year in the United States, nearly 10,000 people are killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers and more than 173,000 are injured, with 27,000 suffering incapacitating injuries. Since the mid-1990s, even as total highway fatalities have fallen, the proportion of deaths from accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver has remained constant at around 30 percent. In the last 30 years, nearly 440,000 people have died in alcohol related crashes, the NTSB reported.
Responsible craft brewers who are interested in preventing their customers from getting out of control may be concerned that a lower limit increases the difficulty of gauging their customers’ thresholds.
Again, the Daily Camera:
“It’s going to be even more difficult to tell if someone has had too many if the threshold is that much lower,” said Tim Myers of Strange Brewing in Denver, which is near light rail. “We are always trying to be careful and responsible. But that is a very big concern for us, that people might just say, ‘Forget it.'”