Until recently, all states in the U.S. had a uniform drunk driving limit. The per se limit for a driver to be considered impaired or under the influence of alcohol in Virginia is 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, Utah recently lowered their legal limit to 0.05% BAC. With support from the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB), other states may follow.
Universal Standards for a DUI
Different states used to have different BAC limits for DUIs, generally ranging from 0.08% to 0.15%. In 2000, a federal transportation bill required states to lower the BAC limit to 0.08% by 2003 to receive funding. The last 5 states to hold out on lowering their BAC were Minnesota, Colorado, Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia. By 2004, all states met the new standard 0.08% BAC limit.
In 2013, the NTSB recommended states reduce the limit for drunk driving laws to 0.05% BAC or above. According to the organization, the reasons for the recommendation include:
- Alcohol impairs critical driving tasks;
- Crash risk is consistently and significantly elevated by the time a driver reaches 0.05%; and
- Lowering the BAC has been shown to reduce accidents, injuries, and deaths.
Utah Made the First Move to Lower BACs
Utah was the first state to lower their legal drunk driving limit from 0.10% to 0.08% in 1983. It may not be surprising that Utah is also the first state to lower their BAC limit again, now to 0.05%. The lower limit can make a big difference for casual drinkers. With the 0.05% limit, it may only take a few drinks to be considered per se impaired.
Lower BAC limits are nothing new for other countries. Most European countries have a 0.05% limit or lower while only the UK (except for Scotland with a BAC limit of 0.05%) has a BAC of about 0.08%. Some countries, like Hungary and Romania, even have a zero-tolerance policy for all drivers when it comes to impaired driving
Opponents, including the American Beverage Institute, say the new laws are overkill and negatively impact the restaurant and hospitality industries. Instead, the focus should be on the drivers more likely to cause serious accidents, who generally have BACs of 0.15% or higher.
Virginia's Legal Limit for Drunk Driving
There is currently no legislation in Virginia to lower the current BAC limits to 0.05%. The per se limit for most drivers in Virginia remains at 0.08% BAC. However, the limit for commercial drivers is only 0.04%, and even lower for drivers under the age of 21.
A higher BAC can result in enhanced penalties. An elevated BAC of 0.15% or higher can be an aggravating factor in Virginia DUI charges.
Charlottesville DUI Lawyer
One of the problems with lowering the legal limit is that small errors in chemical blood tests can make a big difference for drivers who are not impaired. Blood testing machines that are not properly calibrated, cleaned, maintained, or not properly operated can result in inaccurate results, putting innocent drivers at risk of getting a criminal conviction for drunk driving.
If you were arrested for impaired driving in Virginia, talk to your Charlottesville DUI defense attorney about your case and how you can challenge the criminal charges against you. Contact me today for a free consultation.