In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and personal injury cases, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Will New Hampshire Lives Be Saved By Lowering the BAC Standard?
Driving while intoxicated is one of the leading causes of automobile accidents in the state of New Hampshire. It is also one of the leading causes of serious, debilitating injuries. A primary reason for the establishment of DWI laws is to bar other motorists from consuming alcohol and then causing a fatal or serious accident. Through raising awareness of drunk driving and the enforcement of DWI statutes, the past decade has seen a significant drop in the total number of alcohol related accidents. In a report that analyzed the number of alcohol related automobile fatalities per every 100,000 individuals from 2001 to 2011, the Century Council concluded that a decline of almost 50% had occurred. Moreover, during the same period in our state, deadly alcohol related crashes for those less than 21 years of age declined by nearly 90%.
It is highly debated whether or not these declines can be solely attributed to the enforcement of DWI laws. Over the last ten years, states all across the country have tightened their existing DWI laws by adding additional provisions, like the required use of ignition interlock devices for offenders, but there are also a number of other factors that must be taken into consideration. For example, overall awareness of the effects of drunk driving has risen, and the standard safety features found on most automobiles have drastically improved.
In 2009, one particular study examined fatal automobile accidents involving impaired motorists in order to analyze whether the number of drunk driving fatalities was directly influenced by existing DWI laws. The study concluded that alcohol impaired driving is directly correlated to an increased chance of being the cause of a fatal motor vehicle collision. However, researchers could not, with certainty, conclude the reasons for the decline in fatal DWI accidents. For example, as a whole, the United States experienced a notable reduction in the number of fatal automobile accidents, but at the same time, so the rest of the world. These numbers would suggest that safer automobiles and increased awareness of drunk driving would have more influence on reducing fatal vehicular accidents than the creation of stricter DWI laws.
Another method of further reducing the number of fatal DWI accidents in the United States has been discussed extensively by researchers - reducing the current BAC limit from .08 % to .05%. When BAC standards were lowered to .05% originally, the number of DWI accidents in the US was reduced significantly. Proponents of these changes believe the lowering the limit still could produce an even better effect. The study declares:
“Lowering the BAC limit from .10 to .08 g/dL also showed an approximate 8% reduction in drinking drivers involved in fatal. Assuming that these effect sizes could be achieved from additional enforcement efforts and from lowering the BAC limit from .08 to .05, we might expect a further reduction of drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes of between 10% and 20%”
When a motorist has a blood alcohol content of .05%, he or she will generally begin to experience challenges to their visual functions, like their depth perception. However, for the average motorist, their cognitive abilities will not be affected. The alcohol amount that is necessitated to affect an individual’s driving abilities is going to depend upon a number of different variables, such as that person’s age, weight, the amount of food they consumed before drinking alcohol, and many others.
In the aforementioned report by Century Council, it was determined that, in the year 2011, there were approximately 27 fatalities suffered in auto accidents in the state of New Hampshire due to impaired motorists. For that year alone, this number represents nearly 30% of all fatal driving related accidents within New Hampshire. Only a single fatality was attributed to an impaired motorist under the age of 21 years, which represented nearly 10% of all fatal automobile accidents. While the Century Council believes that 30% is still a somewhat high number, they also stated that 86% of all fatal alcohol related car accidents from that year involved motorists who had a blood alcohol content of .15% or higher. These numbers suggest that a relatively small number of motorists who were responsible for causing automobile accidents because of alcohol impairment actually had lower blood content levels.
Such information seems to suggest that lowering the minimum standard BAC levels would do precious little to actually keep New Hampshire’s roads safer and would only create more “criminals”. In terms of blood alcohol content, .05% is actually quite a low level, and for many NH motorists, one or two drinks with a dinner might result in a DWI charge if they were pulled over by a police officer on their way home afterwards.
Although this plan has been bandied about by researchers, it appears as though there is currently little effort being made to implement such new restrictions. However, particular groups, like the National Transportation Safety Bureau, believe that the future of DWI law may be headed this way. In May of 2013, the NTSB released a report encouraging states to lower their current BAC standards in order to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by intoxicated motorists; however, this report has been met with strong resistance.
What is certain is that, if you have suffered injuries or the death of a loved one involved in a drunk driving accident, then you should retain the services of an experienced New Hampshire personal injury attorney to find out more about the types of compensation you are entitled too. Recovery from any sort of serious automobile accident is a long, arduous process, but knowing that you and your loved ones are provided for can assist in alleviating some of this burden. For a free consultation regarding a potential claim, please contact our law offices today.
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