BUFFALO, N.Y. – The federal proposal to lower the DWI
blood-alcohol limit would make the standard similar to European
nations and Australia, and could save lives, says a University at
Buffalo School of Social Work research professor who has studied
the effects of impaired driving for more than 25 years.
“The move to a .05 blood-alcohol level (from 0.8) is not a
new idea,” says Thomas H. Nochajski, PhD, whose research
includes preventing alcohol and drug problems for families and
children. “The European nations and Australia have had .05 as
the legal limit for a number of years. The issue is whether
lowering the BAC level will result in saving lives.”
Nochajski (pronounced Na-high-ski) says a direct effect on
saving lives could very well occur.
“We saw a drop in fatalities after the BAC level was
lowered from .10 to .08, and may see a similar decrease if it is
lowered to .05,” Nochajski says.
There were about 900 fatal crashes in 2011 where one of the
drivers had a BAC between .05 and .07, according to Nochajski.
“So crashes do occur at this BAC level,” he says.
“In fact, the risk for being involved in a fatal crash for
individuals with a BAC between .05 and .0799 ranges from a high of
almost 10 times that of a driver with a BAC level of o.oo for males
ages 16 to 20, to a low of almost four times for males and females
over the age of 35.”
Research into impaired driving shows that certain functions
important for good driving begin to be affected after a single
drink, Nochajski notes.
“We know that vision, decision-making, information
processing, distance judgment, distraction and reactions are all
influenced by low levels of alcohol,” he says. “So the
move to the .05 level is not out of line with the research
Nochajski also says for the average male, it takes approximately
three drinks in one hour to reach the .05 level, and around two
drinks for a female.
“So we are not talking about abstinence,” he says.
“I also think that decisions about driving after drinking
should be made before one starts drinking. Use of taxis and
designated drivers can allow for a comfortable night out.
However, once the drinking has started, relying on your ability to
make a good decisions is not a good idea, regardless of whether we
move to .05 or not.”
Nochajski is available for requests for media interviews.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call
UB’s media relations office at 716-645-6969.