Nightly News   |  May 14, 2013

NTSB calls for new drunk driving definition

The National Transportation Safety Board is advising states to lower the Blood Alcohol Level that defines drunk driving from .08 to .05, which they say is the level at which many drivers’ vision can be affected. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> federal safety officials are out tonight with a change they'd like to make in the legal limit, lowering what's considered safe for blood alcohol levels when behind the wheel. they say they don't expect this proposal to be popular but they say it's necessary and when this same change was made in europe, the death rate there was cut in half. our report from nbc's tom costello.

>> reporter: in colorado, funeral services for police officer kevin denner, killed last week by a driver allegedly driving drunk . just one of nearly 10,000 people who die each year in alcohol-related accidents. 170,000 are injured.

>> we can choose to accept the senseless and needless losses or we can choose to act.

>> reporter: today, the ntsb urged all 50 states to low are the legal definition of drunk driving from the current blood alcohol level of 0.08 to 0.05, that's where many driver's vision can be affected. in maryland officer john lomax has seen many drivers when they weren't at 0.08.

>> once it impairs their motorcycles and their judgment, that's where it becomes change russ.

>> reporter: alcohol affects everyone differently based on gender, weight and tolerance but on average a 30-year-old male weighing 180 pounds would need to consume just over four beers in an hour to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.05. 30-year-old female weighing 130 would only have to drink two glasses of wine to hit a bac of 0.05. more than 100 countries use 0.05 as the legal limit for drunk driving but the american beverage institute which represents bars and restaurants calls the recommendation ludicrous, moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize most responsible behavior.

>> most people can have a glass of wine with dinner and not get to 0.05.

>> reporter: getting everyone state to lower its dui won't be easy. the ntsb believes up to 800 lives could be saved each year from 0.05 were the will you of the land. tom costello, nbc news, washington.