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May 15, 2013

Recommendation to lower limit for DWI doesn't go over well

The legal limit for driving while intoxicated could get stricter.

But the National Transportation Safety Board recommendation doesn’t have much support in New Hampshire — or elsewhere.

The NTSB recommended yesterday states lower the legal blood alcohol content limit from 0.08 to 0.05 in hopes of reducing alcohol-related crashes.

But many think that level is just too low.

“People wouldn’t be even able to drink a glass of wine with dinner,” said Patrick McHale, bar manager of One Eleven Village Restaurant in Hampstead. “It would be tough on business.”

Salem police prosecutor Jason Grosky said the effect would be minimal.

“I’d be surprised if there is any clear impact,” he said. “I hope it would serve as a deterrent more than anything, but as far as a real impact, I am skeptical.”

So far this year, he said, only 32 people arrested for DWI in Salem agreed to take a breath test. He estimated just one-third of those stopped for DWI agree to the test.

“I think if you lower the threshold, more people are going to refuse breath tests,” he said. “That doesn’t make it easier for us.”

Anyone who refuses a breath test loses the right to drive for 180 days, according to RSA 265-A: 14.

Defense attorney Mark Stevens of Salem, who specializes in DWI cases, isn’t a fan of the proposal.

“It’s a made-up drunk,” he said. “People driving at 0.08 right now aren’t even drunk.”

All 50 states have a BAC limit of 0.08. But that’s the exception; more than 100 countries have a BAC limit of 0.05 or lower.

To reach a BAC of 0.05 would take one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 pounds, two drinks for a 160-pound man. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 80-proof alcohol in most studies.

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