by Chris Haire
If a South Carolina state senator and the National Transportation Safety Board get their way, drinking itself will become illegal.
This is not a joke.
This is not hyperbole.
This is not some crazy-ass conspiracy theory that I cooked up this morning as I drank two ham biscuits and ate a pot of coffee. No, siree. (By the way, last night was rough in case you couldn't figure it out for yourself.)
As a skilled imbiber, I know better than to joke about these matters. Prick me, and I will fizzle. Shake me, and I will foam.
So please believe me when I tell you that if the Statehouse passes Sen. Gerald Malloy's bill lowering the DUI limit to 0.05, you, me, and most anyone who reads the City Paper will be fucked anytime we grab a drink outside of our homes.
For some women, one drink and one drink alone will be enough to put them over the legal limit. For the rest, two drinks should do it. As for men, two drinks will be enough for a few, and three will be way more than enough for pretty much everybody else. That means that if you and your significant other go out for a nice dinner and polish off a bottle of wine, you will be legally intoxicated. Don't believe, me? Well, check out these blood alcohol charts.
As for why the NTSB believes we must lower the DUI limit immediately, well, they've got statistics on their side. According to the NTSB, drivers with a BAC of 0.05 are
38 times 38 percent more likely to get involved in an accident than someone who is stone-cold sober. Or at least that's what the P&C says and the New York Times says and scores of other media outlets say the NTSB report says. Except that it doesn't. Nope. According to the NTSB's anti-0.08 report, drivers with a BAC of 0.05 are only 1.38 times more likely to get in an accident than non-imbibing drivers. Hmm. I wonder what happened there. Two guesses: One, the original AP report everyone cribbed from was wrong, or two, the press release the NTSB sent out had a boner of a typo. I mean, 38 times is nearly 38 times bigger than 1.38 times.
What's even more interesting
than this apparent flub and how it got reported by the Times, the P&C, and countless others — seriously, guys, look at the study next time — is how this rate for 0.05 BAC drivers compares to drivers with even lower blood-alcohol levels.
Yeah, your eyes aren't fooling you. A driver with a BAC of 0.01 is 1.03 times more likely to be in an accident than a driver who hasn't touched a drop. And the likelihood increases to 1.06 times for a driver at 0.03. Yikes. Meanwhile, at today's currently 0.08 BAC limit, drivers are 2.69 times more likely to be in a crash, while at the yesteryear limit of 0.10, that risk jumps to 4.79.
Now what does all of this mean? Well, it's pretty obvious. The NTSB's 0.05 BFF is a pretty arbitrary number that ain't much different that 0.00. Hell, it's practically meaningless.
All of which brings us to NTSB's true intention here, one that they lay out in the report: They believe they can eliminate all accidents that take place after a driver has had a single drink. And you have to look no further than the title of the report itself: "Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Substance-Impaired Driving."
Except of course, we know that will never happen. No matter how tough the laws get, there simply aren't enough cops out on the streets to stop every drunk driver that takes to the road.
Now, that's not a defeatist statement. It's just a fact. And in the case of the NTSB's report, lowering the DUI limit isn't going to do anything about cutting down on drunk driving either.